By Ayhan Simsek
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has proposed a regional dialogue forum for the Middle East as a means to reach a security agreement and address tensions.
In his address to the Munich Security Conference on Sunday, Zarif called on the Persian Gulf countries to surmount the current state of divisions and instead move towards achieving "regional security arrangements”.
"It can perhaps start with a modest regional dialogue forum based on generally recognized principles and shared objectives. The forum can promote understanding on a broad spectrum of issues, including confidence and security building measures and combating terrorism, extremism and sectarianism,” he said.
“‘It could also encourage practical cooperation in areas ranging from protection of environment to joint investments and tourism. Such a forum could eventually develop into a more formal non-aggression and security arrangements,” he said.
Zarif also described Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Oman and Kuwait last week as “a major step” towards the realization of such a dialogue.
“I emphasize that the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Bahrein do not have military solutions. Each requires a political solution,” he said.
When asked by a participant whether Iran’s proposal for a regional dialogue forum also foresees dialogue with Israel, Zarif underlined that their “modest” initiative would rather focus on addressing problems in the Persian Gulf.
“We are focusing on the Persian Gulf, we have enough problems in this region. So we want to start a dialogue with countries that we call brothers. We call each other brothers in Islam. We need to address the common problems and perceptions that have given rise to anxieties, rise to level of violence that exists in the region,” he said.
- Saudi reaction
Speaking at the same conference, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir rejected Iran’s proposal for a regional dialogue and accused Tehran of supporting terrorism and interfering in domestic affairs of other countries.
“Iranians talk about wanting to turn a new page, wanting to look forward, not backwards. This is great. But what do we do about the present? We cannot ignore what they are doing in the region," he said.
Al-Jubeir said Iran failed to respect the principle of good-neighborliness or non-interference in the affairs of others.
“This is manifested in their interference in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrein, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan,” he said.
"Iran remains the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world,” the Saudi minister added.