The delegation has met a number of influential businessmen and high profile companies, including Ahab Construction Company, in Tehran reviewing grounds for signing joint venture agreements in oil, gas, petrochemical and high-speed railway sectors. What follows is the full text of interview with Dr. Fasslabend and Dr. Kappel, encompassing economic and political issues.
IRAN NEWS: How well do you know Iran?
DR. FASSLABEND: Iran is such great and fascinating country that even if you are ambitious to know as much as possible you only get a glimpse of this wonderful land. It possesses rich culture with variety of landscapes, great people and of course very important geopolitical situation.
IRAN NEWS: Tehran is hosting diplomatic and trade delegations these days, mostly from Europe, What motivates European states to take these trips?
DR. FASSLABEND: Looking from Europe, Iran is one of the big potential markets in its neighborhood. Only Russia and Turkey have about the same potentials. It is of comparable potential and highly interesting to the Europeans. If we look back to the period before the sanctions that came all over the country, we had very intense economic relationships. I think the whole world still is in the situation of more or less economic development and to improve our economic relationships will help every side. Whatever we have to do is to shape a win-win situation in order to better the economic situation, to create new jobs and also to have great variety of offers for contributors.
IRAN NEWS: With a relatively long history of 140 years of bilateral relations, Austria has always been a friendly country to Iran. It is also a pleasure to have continuation of N-Talks in Vienna. How do you evaluate the progress of N-Talks and the performance of the negotiators?
DR. FASSLABEND: I think there was some great progress made already of course. The subject is not easy to handle for no sight, but what I can really say, there is such a high professionalism on the Iranian side with your foreign minister who takes part any time and his deputy who is the chief negotiator that you really can say best possible men on the front. As what I hear, they try everything to get the best results. One has to be aware that at the end if you want to have a solution, I mean every side, the Americans, the Europeans and the Iranians, will have to go to the edge of the very limit they are ready to go otherwise the solution is not possible. In tough negotiations it is always that you have to overcome your own limits that you have set to yourself. This is the same for the Americans and for the Europeans and for the Iranians. I think the job is the toughest for the Americans at the moment. They are in the situation where it is not easy to overcome their own precisions they have had for 35 years.
IRAN NEWS: What is Austria’s stance vis-à-vis the nuclear program of Iran?
DR. FASSLABEND: Austria is not a nuclear country even for civil purposes and insofar we think that it is very important to have a situation of none further proliferation because if you have new members in the nuclear science sector then of course, this will not be the end but Austrian specialists think that in future many other countries would try to get nuclear area. This will not be strategic advantage for anybody but just creating the same situation at very high cost. Therefore, we think that it is much better to invest the money into the civil economic development. We look forward to the demographic situation, increase of population, we have to create new jobs, and we have to try to get the best possibilities and opportunities for the future. Insofar, we have to concentrate on investments into this sector otherwise it will not change the situation, if we look at it from an overall point of view.
IRAN NEWS: Do you see any prospects for lifting some or all sanctions against Iran on the part of Europe?
DR FASSLABEND: I have to say that personally I always was absolutely against the sanctions and I think it was not a good system that was installed, because the sanctions always hit the mass of the population that is not responsible for anything. Anyhow, which precision you will have, what I see of course, this is one of the major questions of the nuclear talks and the outcome should be lifting the sanctions. If you are realist you have to take that this will not come in one big set but probably there will be a process with lifting the sanctions in a few steps. That’s what I see. I am very positive on the future. It will depend on how comprehensive the question is answered. Every side has different precisions on what should and what should not be included. And also the way to lift all the sanctions will depend on the question of how much of the whole program you can comprehend. After 35 years of hostilities and distress it will be necessary to create an atmosphere of trust and handling problems.
IRAN NEWS: Foreign Minister Kurtz had a two-day visit to Tehran recently. What were the achievements of this visit for both sides in your opinion?
DR. KAPPEL: I think it was a very positive signal that minister Kurz came to Tehran to see his colleague minister. It was positive in Austria because Austria should play a special role as a neutral country to negotiate and to help establish peaceful relations between the countries. It was a positive signal for Europe and for Austria that we sent the first foreign minister and it was good signal for Iran that we are willing and prepared to do everything to help the situation come back to normal.
IRAN NEWS: What are the obstacles to integration of Europe?
DR. KAPPEL: The European union and its 28 member states are different in national questions and economic development. Europe suffered from financial crisis and it has not yet overcome this crisis. The medicine to overcome this crisis can be different from the point of view of different nation states, different administrations and different experts. So, integration is not so easy but I am sure that Europe will overcome the crisis and there are indicators for development in different countries, in Greece and also in Spain.
IRAN NEWS: So you blame the financial crisis as an obstacle to integration. What about the situation in Ukraine and the case of Turkey?
DR. KAPPEL: I think the financial crisis has caused tremendous problems to the European union because the crisis brings together the incredible amount of jobless people, 27 million in Europe and also an enormous amount of national debt of 90 percent of national growth incomes in the countries on an average on European level. This is very critical and difficult to overcome. We have a fiscal debt which is necessary to give a certain discipline to the nation states to meter the criteria and stick to this fiscal debt. Of course, as you mentioned Europe faces other problems as well such as Ukraine. I am a little bit critical about the role Europe played in connection with Ukraine. We should have been more diplomatic at the very beginning when it was time to sign the association agreement between Ukraine and Europe. I think we’d better to pre-negotiate that to somehow cover or share Russian interest as well. It would have been preferable to what happened but I hope that even there and of this no administration in Kiev a solution will be found.
IRAN NEWS: Apparently you are on a business trip to Tehran and a joint venture deal has been envisioned. What this visit encompasses and what are the main objectives you seek to achieve?
DR. KAPPEL: What we would like to support is the development of the private sector in Iran. We had a very similar development in Austria for the past 40 years. We know that the private sector is of sustainable importance for economic growth and that’s why we support steps for the enlargement of the private sector in Iran as well.
IRAN NEWS: What are the most significant obstacles to concluding trade deals with Iran and what is the likelihood of overcoming them during the coming months?
DR. KAPPEL: You know better than anybody else how critical or different it can be to cooperate under the sanctions. That is why for the development of the private sector it is absolutely crucial and necessary that the sanctions will be lifted. I am positive that this will happen pretty soon.
IRAN NEWS: Some of the areas that you are planning to finance are particularly sensitive in terms of sanctions. How reasonable it is to expect that the N-Talks will be able to move past the existing emotional resistance? What are the areas we can realistically expect to sign an agreement on?
DR. KAPPEL: Of course for many fields of business, as you mentioned, it is necessary that the sanctions will be lifted. I am positive that even in July the negotiators will be able to come to a result and I am very positive that until the end of the year we will see the first positive results or fruits of the negotiations and lifting process. However, we should wait and see the result of the negotiations and then go ahead with our business partnerships.
IRAN NEWS: Given the tight timeline of the nuclear negotiations, how useful would a less ambitious, more limited agreement be?
I think business and entrepreneurship are so important for the future so that entrepreneurship should not be stopped. The negotiators should have their visions, they should have their emotions and visions on memoranda and contracts. We want to be positive that all of these contracts and memoranda will be fulfilled while seeing the challenges and problems, and risks. I prefer to see the challenges and risks. The projects we are working about are strictly private because for the projects of the public sector and the government we must receive the green light.
IRAN NEWS: What is your opinion about the developments in the Middle East, mass massacres in Iraq by the terrorists of ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham)?
DR. FASSLABEND: The stability of the Middle East is highly in danger. Given the developments in the last few months, I think it is necessary that all present forces and powers and actors of the region and beyond will have to cooperate in order to control the situation because nobody can have an interest that extreme terrorist groups are in control of big part of Syria and Iran. Therefore, it will be necessary to do everything to get the control of the region. No actor alone will be able to control the situation whether it is Iraq, Europeans, Iran, Turkey or Saudi Arabia.
IRAN NEWS: Some political analysts say the upheavals in the region are to pave the way for more presence of NATO in the region. How far do you agree with this?
DR. FASSLABEND: I think this is not a question for intervention from outside. But stability has to be brought or produced within the region itself and what powers from outside can do is to assist in cutting down interventions from outside and delivering of weapons, masses and warriors from different parts of the world. This is what I see.
Published on: Wednesday, June 25, 2014 03:17 PM
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