Iran’s Rapid Reintegration into World Community Will Yield Universal Benefits

Throughout history, Iran has played a pivotal role in our world. It governed an ancient empire stretching across the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia into Europe and the Indian sub-continent. Its scientists and scholars were at the heart of the Islamic Golden Age during which our knowledge and understanding moved forward dramatically.

In more recent times, Iran was a founding member of the United Nations, of OPEC and the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation. With a population of just under 80 million, abundant natural resources, a developed economy and its unique geographical position, Iran remains a hugely important country regionally and in global terms. It is why Iran’s recent isolation has been so damaging not only for its own citizens but the wider world.

Without Iran’s active engagement, it has proven impossible to tackle the region’s gravest challenges. Indeed, increased tensions between major players has exacerbated many of these problems. By cutting off one of the region’s largest economies through international sanctions, growth and prosperity has been stifled. The global economy faces enough problems without erecting new barriers to trade and expansion.

Kazakhstan, of course, has close ties through geography, history, culture and people with Iran. So it is no surprise that we have worked tirelessly, within the rules set by the international community, to create the conditions where its isolation could be ended.

Wherever possible, Kazakhstan has worked to heal rifts and support the practical steps needed to rebuild confidence. Our position as a trusted partner of Iran and all the major powers saw us host two rounds of talks over the country’s nuclear programme. By enabling this dialogue to continue when negotiations had run into difficulty, we kept open lines of communication to allow agreement eventually to be reached.

Kazakhstan has also taken concrete measures to put it into place. Under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the country has supplied natural uranium to Iran in exchange for the country giving up its stocks of highly enriched uranium. The low-enriched uranium bank Kazakhstan is setting up, again in partnership with the IAEA, could potentially supply Iran’s civilian energy programme, along with those of other countries, in the future.

What is now crucial, as sanctions are progressively lifted, is to re-integrate Iran quickly into the global economy. This will provide a major boost to the whole region and to global trade.

The rail line between Iran, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, which opened in 2014, and the improved transport infrastructure of the new Silk Road can play a major part in this. Together with plans to cut red tape and transit costs, it will allow trade to flow to and from Central Asia, China and Russia to the ports on the Persian Gulf.

How this potential can be maximised is one of the topics which Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev is set to discuss in Tehran on April 11-12. His official trip, which follows Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s own visit to Kazakhstan in 2014, is another sign of the deepening political and economic relationship between the two countries.

Our two nations have already signed bilateral agreements to improve cooperation on a wide range of economic areas, including investment. Iran is also keen to increase its ties with the Eurasian Economic Union. The quicker that barriers to trade and investment can be removed, the better for everyone.

There will also be plenty of foreign policy issues, including growing concern over Afghanistan and the crisis in the Middle East which will feature in the talks. But whether the challenges are economic or political, the world has a much better chance of making progress towards solutions with Iran’s involvement rather than isolation.

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