Rouhani: Iran wants friendly relations with all states

Rouhani: Iran wants friendly relations with all states

President says diplomatic ties with US possible; not clear if overture extends to Israel, which Iran's supreme leader regularly castigates

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (screen capture: RTS)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (screen capture: RTS)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday said a turnaround in relations with the United States was possible, and that Tehran was extending the olive branch to all countries of the world. It was not clear whether his overture extended to Israel, which Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei regularly castigates.

Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Rouhani told Swiss TV station RTS that it was possible for Iran and the US to restore diplomatic relations after almost 34 years of enmity and severed ties.

“No animosity lasts eternally, no friendship either lasts eternally. So we have to transform animosities into friendship,” Reuters reported him saying.

Washington severed ties with Iran in April 1980, after 52 American diplomats were taken hostage in the US Embassy in Tehran.

Rouhani told Swiss TV that tough relations with Washington could be improved with efforts by both sides. 

“This effort is necessary to create confidence on both sides. Iran is in fact stretching out its hand in peace and friendship to all countries of the world and wants friendly, good relations with all countries in the world,” the president said.

Earlier in the day, Rouhani’s English-language Twitter account posted that the president was “Looking forward to constructive & solution oriented discussions” while attending the conference in Davos which kicked off Wednesday.

According to Iranian media, Rouhani seeks to promote diplomatic and economic ties with other countries during his attendance of the conference.

“Davos is a good opportunity for the world to benefit from Iranˈs economic capacities,” the Islamic Republic News Agency quoted him saying.

En route to Davos, Rouhani’s plane parked alongside that belonging to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the tarmac in Zurich. Despite coincidentally being a couple wingspans apart, the two leaders neither met nor exchanged words.

The Davos conference is the first time that the Israeli leader and his Iranian counterpart have attended the same event simultaneously. In September their itineraries at the UN General Assembly in New York did not overlap.

“Would you meet with somebody who calls for your annihilation?” Netanyahu told Canadian television station CTV this week, when asked whether he was willing to meet with Rouhani at Davos. “If Rouhani said that, OK, we recognize the Jewish state; we, Iran, are prepared to have peace with Israel [and that] Israel will be here forever — that would pique my interest, in Davos or anywhere else. But so far, they say the opposite.”

Rouhani’s remarks came two days after a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers reached in Geneva in November took effect.

Since taking office in June, Rouhani has spearheaded a charm campaign aimed at rapprochement with the West and has reengaged world powers in negotiations to curb its unsanctioned nuclear program.

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