Assist. Prof. Dr. Özüm Sezin Uzun from İstanbul Aydin University, Department of Political Science and International Relations, assessed the visit of Catherine Ashton to Tehran for TURKSAM.

Regarding the Syrian crisis, Dr. Uzun views the relations between Iran and EU countries as follows;

“High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Catherine Ashton emphasized the opportunities of cooperation between Iran and EU countries. Within this framework, Iranian nuclear program and the prospects of peaceful solution to other regional issues were discussed. The visit of Ashton to Iran was important because of several reasons. Firstly, it signals the progress of ongoing negotiation process on the Iranian nuclear program. On November 2013, Iran and P5+1 reached to an interim nuclear agreement, which consists of suspension of some of uranium enrichment activities of Iran in exchange for decreased economic sanctions on it. It seems that there are serious challenges on the road to the comprehensive agreement. Besides the technical challenges due to the budget and personnel scarcity of the IAEA to ensure successful verification for the implementation of the agreement, there would be political challenges. It is seen that some actors in Iranian politics have been criticizing the normalization of Iranian relations with the West, thus they have been differentiating the negotiation process from improving relations with the West. The statements of Iranian officials about the impossibility of abandonment from uranium enrichment rights for peaceful purposes and the extant of threat perception from the United States against the values of Islamic Revolution would trigger problems. Therefore, it is seen that Ashton attempted to grasp different stances in Iranian politics towards the negotiation process.

During the visit, the opportunities for cooperation on the Syrian issue were also brought into the agenda. After meeting with Ashton, Majles Speaker Ali Larijani stated that EU countries and P5+1 should take concrete steps to reach to common goals. Ashton emphasized that the primary objective on the Syrian issue is to ensure humanitarian aids, mentioning the importance of Iranian role. However, it is noteworthy to mention that the prospect of cooperation on regional disputes, including Syria, depends on the negotiation process on Iranian nuclear program. Even though both parties support diplomatic means to solve Syrian crisis, their different stances were seen apparently once again. While Iranian officials view the elections as useful mechanism to solve crisis in Syria, Ashton argues that the elections would not be sufficient to solve such a deep and complex crisis.

Would the pragmatic policies of President Rouhani lead to a normalization phase in the bilateral relations between Iran and European countries? It seems that both the policies of Rouhani and the recent developments at the international level would strengthen the positive answer to this question. Since EU imports 25% of its natural gas needs from Russia and 80% of those is transported via Ukraine, the EU countries attentively follow the increasing tension between Russia and Ukraine over Crimea. Regarding the dependency of Europe on Russian natural gas and its need to decrease this dependency, Iranian natural gas resource would be an alternative for Europe. In addition, it is certain that if the negotiations will lead to a comprehensive agreement, Iranian oil export is also expected to increase. It is estimated that one million barrel would be added within 6 months to the current 1.3 million barrels daily export of Iranian oil.

In conclusion, the relations between Iran and EU countries are at the beginning of a new rapprochement phase. However, the mutual security considerations, which would obstruct cooperation on regional issues and comprehensive nuclear agreement, would jeopardize the rapprochement process.”

The information and views set out in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the İstanbul Aydın Üniversity Tawakkol Karman Center for Global Peace and Democracy.