UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has arrived in Iran and has just finished a series of meetings with Iranian officials, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Soon after arriving in Tehran, the UN chief attended a working lunch at the Parliament building with the Speaker, Ali Larijani, and other officials, and later had meetings with President Ahmadinejad, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili.
“In all these meetings, the Secretary-General conveyed the clear concerns and expectations of the international community on the issues for which cooperation and progress are urgent for both regional stability and the welfare of the Iranian people,” the spokesperson told a news briefing at UN Headquarters in New York.
“These include Iran’s nuclear program, terrorism, human rights and the crisis in Syria,” he added.
The UN chief is in Iran to attend the 16th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Taking place in the capital, Tehran, and under the chairmanship of the Government of Iran, the NAM Summit began on Sunday and ends on Friday, and is expected to draw representatives from its 120 members, as well as from various associated observer countries. The UN chief will address the Summit on Thursday.
“This is very important opportunity for Iran to play a very important role as moderate and constructive leader of the international community in addressing all the challenges,” Mr. Ban said in a media encounter upon arrival at Tehran’s Mehrabad International Airport, earlier on Wednesday, adding that Iran has a “very important” role to play in the region, particularly when it comes to the situation in Syria.
A UN spokesperson who addressed the same news briefing by telephone from Tehran said that while discussing the nuclear question in his meeting with President Ahmadinejad, the Secretary-General said he has been following closely Iran’s talks with the P5+1 grouping, made up of the five Security Council permanent members – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States – along with Germany.
The spokesperson in Tehran stated that the UN chief regretted that little tangible progress has been achieved so far during the talks, and that the talks needed to be serious and substantive.
“He said that Iran needed to take concrete steps to address the concern of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and prove to the world that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes,’ the spokesperson noted. “He said that there is no alternative to peaceful, diplomatic and negotiated settlement which should be reached step by step and based on reciprocity.”
The Secretary-General made the same point on the nuclear question in his meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iran’s nuclear activities have been of international concern since the discovery, in 2003, that Iran had concealed its nuclear activities for 18 years, in breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran has repeatedly stated that its nuclear program is for the peaceful purpose of providing energy, but many countries contend it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
Mr. Ban has previously expressed the hope that the parties can quickly achieve a negotiated solution that restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program. In 2011, the Security Council imposed a fourth round of sanctions against Iran, citing the proliferation risks of its nuclear program and its continued failure to cooperate with the IAEA.
On Syria, in his separate meetings with the President and the Supreme Leader, Mr. Ban urged them both to use Iran’s influence to impress upon the Syrian leadership the urgent need for the violence to stop and to create the conditions for a credible dialogue and a genuine political process that meets the will of the Syrian people, the spokesperson in Tehran said.
He added that the Secretary-General reiterated his opposition to the further militarization of the conflict and he called on all States to stop supplying arms to all sides in Syria.
Syria has been wracked by violence, with more than 17,000 people, mostly civilians, killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 17 months ago. Over the past month, there have been reports of an escalation in violence in many towns and villages, as well as the country’s two biggest cities, Damascus and Aleppo. In addition, the conflict has displaced many people, both inside the country and into neighboring countries.
On human rights, in his meeting with the President, Secretary-General Ban said that the human rights situation in Iran remains a source of concern, and that fundamental, civil and political rights should be respected.
In that meeting as well as his meeting with the Supreme Leader, the UN chief also mentioned that he strongly objected to recent remarks from Iranian officials denying the Holocaust and Israel’s right to exist, the spokesperson in Tehran noted, adding that Mr. Ban said that such offensive and inflammatory statements were unacceptable and should be condemned by all.
The Secretary-General had similar exchanges with the Speaker of Parliament and with the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, with the talks with the latter focused primarily on the nuclear issue.