Belgrade dismisses sanctions as right solution

IRNA – Serbian Ambassador in Tehran Dragan Todorovic ruled out using sanctions as a proper solution for problems, saying only talks will work.

‘Sanctions are not a proper way for anything, sanctions cannot resolve any problem,’ Todorovic said in a recent exclusive interview with the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

‘Problems could be resolved only by talks and negotiations and by trying to find measures to improve economy,’ he added while recalling a time when during the 1990s hyperinflation in Yugoslavia people suffered the most as the country was under sanctions.

Serbia was part of Yugoslavia until the latter’s breakup in 1990s.

Referring to the 1992-1994 Yugoslavia Hyperinflation, the ambassador said, ‘It was very difficult time because the inflation was very high and our country was under the pressure of sanctions and our economy could not fight this pressure.’

Todorovic added that by holding talks with friends Serbia found a solution to this problem.

‘Sanctions are not a proper way for anything, sanctions cannot resolve any problem,’ he said.

As for the US walk away from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, Todorovic said, ‘Our minister of foreign affairs gave an announcement immediately after the decision of the US to leave this agreement [and] expressed regret for the US decision.’

‘Regardless of the fact that Iran accomplished all tasks under this agreement, our ministry said that only talks and negotiations with all involved sides could resolve any problem and this is the best way,’ he reiterated.

We have good relations with Iran and the United States, Russia, China. We did not participate in creation of this nuclear agreement but our government gave this announcement in support of Iran deal.’

After Washington’s May 8 exit from the historic Iran Deal formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the US gave 90 to 180 wind-down period to other countries before it starts re-imposing oil sanctions on Tehran on November 4.

Part of the US illegitimate sanctions were imposed on Iran on August 9.

Trump also said he would reinstate the US nuclear sanctions on Iran and impose “the highest level” of economic bans on the Islamic Republic.

Todorovic referred to clear position taken by Serbia regarding the nuclear deal saying ‘Serbia is not under any pressure for this because we have good relations with US and Iran at the same time and we have our policy and we want to respect both countries and we do not want to interfere in affairs of our friends in Iran and in the US.’

‘We strongly support all countries involving in this agreement to continue with realization of the agreement and the peace solution,’ Todorovic said.

More in his interview with IRNA, the Serbian ambassador teferred to Tehran-Belgrade ties saying, ‘I just want to stress that we have good relations in almost all fields’.

‘The only field that we do not still need more relations is the economy,’ he said adding that according to statistics last year the two capitals had about $21m economic exchange ‘but this is not what we want,’ Todorovic stressed.

Referring to the previous round of Iran-Serbia joint economic commission meeting held on June 20-22, he said the two sides ‘had very good negotiations and we were talking on how to improve the economic relations to the level which is the same level as other fields.’

The joint economic commission meeting was co-chaired by Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade Mohammad Shariatmadari and the Serbian Minister of Tourism, Trade and Telecommunication Rasim Ljajić.

‘The main mission of the joint committee was to explore how to increase the volume of economic exchange because we had some especial groups for agriculture, energy and other fields so we are waiting to see how the both sides will realize what we were talking about,’ the Serbian ambassador said.

During the Iranian minister’s visit to Serbia, the sides signed three MoUs. One is about the protection of plants (agriculture), the second one on air traffic and the third one about the joint commission meeting, the envoy said.

He also underlined good political relations between the two countries referring to the trip made by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to Belgrade in Fubruary.

‘Dr. Zarif with a huge delegation including some businessmen came to Serbia and we had very good talks in Belgrade not only with the minister but with our President Aleksandar Vučić and some other ministers. So I have to say that these political relations are very important for all other sectors,’ he said.

Todorovic said existing of 800 common words between Iran and Serbia as well as holding Serbian Film Week in three Iranian cities and translating Iranian ancient and contemporary books in Serbian language are all indicative of high-level cultural relations between the two nations.

‘Serbia and Iran organized this week of the Serbian film and this is something new we have been the special guest in the Iranian international book fair in Tehran and our minister of culture was here and he had a very good talks and very good meetings here in Tehran and Isfahan. He was received by his counterpart minister of culture of Iran,’ Todorovic added.

‘We have also some modern books that are translated into Serbian language such as that by [Iran’s special advisor to the Supreme Leader] Dr. Velayati,’ the Serbian envoy said.

‘Today we have more than 100 Persian books translated into Serbian language from Omar Khayyam and all books from Saadi, Hafez and Rudaki and also Rostam and Sohrab were translated into Serbian language,’ he noted.

The tragedy of Rostam and Sohrab forms part of the 10th-century Persian epic Shahnameh by the Persian poet Ferdowsi. It tells the tragic story of the heroes Rostam and his son, Sohrab.

As for bilateral relations on religious activities, he said that a number of Iranian religious books have also been translated into Serbian language. ‘We have also books from religion field for example the Book ‘Shi’ite Islam’ [by Hossein Nasr and Mohammad Hossein Tabataba’i].’

Referring to the fact that a lot of Serbian people like Persian language, Todorovic said, ‘First the Persian literature and poems are really famous in Serbia and the traditions of translations of the Persian books is more than 100 years [old].’

‘Second we have good relations and we are very interested in these relations and speaking Persian language.’

‘The third is that Iran is the most important country in the region what is also very important is that people in Serbia like to see how this tradition is lasting so long.’

‘We have students who are studying Persian language at the Belgrade University and in the Mega Trend University and in some schools also we have very good relations and cooperation with Iranian embassy and cultural center,’ he added.

Commenting on bilateral relations in sports field, he said ‘The coach of the Iranian national volleyball team and the coach of water polo are from Serbia and the coach of Iranian youth basketball team is also from Serbia.’

Elaborating on Serbia determination for promotion of bilateral cooperation with Iran, the ambassador said, ‘We will also sign MoU on consular cooperation.’

‘Some MoUs will be signed between faculty of agriculture in Belgrade and the institute for protection of plants in Tehran,’ Todorovic added.
‘We are also considering cooperation in the field of sports and youths, [and] labor.’

Answering a question on tourism ties between Iran and Serbia, the ambassador said ‘After wavering the visa regime, we had already very positive results from both sides. We have many Iranian tourists in Serbia. We have also some Iranian businessmen [who] invested in Serbia. We have Serbian tourists coming to Iran as well.”

Commenting on the future exchange of visits by the Iranian and Serbian officials, he said that the Serbian head of the joint economic commission and the minister of trade is to come to Iran to evaluate what we received from the previous meeting.

Todorovic added a number of the Serbian officials “from the agriculture and energy sector[s] will come to Iran.’

The president of the foreign policy committee will come soon to Iran upon an invitation by his Iranian counterpart, said the ambasador.

He noted that the president of Iran-Serbia parliamentary friendship group will also visit Iran.

Serbia is also waiting for Iran Majlis (Parliament) speaker Ali Larijani to have a trip to the country, he added.