By FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOSE C. DE VENECIA JR.
We welcome and commend US President Donald Trump and Iran President Hassan Rouhani for expressing willingness to talk to each other, a move that, although still to happen, hopefully will begin to lower the level of tension on both sides of the Persian (Arab) Gulf.
The flashpoint of conflict between the US and Iran has been a mounting concern for Europe and Asia, indeed the global community since Trump withdrew from the multinational nuclear agreement with Iran last year, after years of negotiations with the European and the US, the latter then led by President Barrack Obama. Thus the openness of the two leaders today, Trump and Rouhani, to a meeting is a positive development in the tension-filled Gulf region.
Reports quoted the US president as saying that “if the circumstances were correct, were right, I would certainly agree to that,” referring to a possible meeting with Rouhani.
We in the Philippines and the world hope that if such a meeting takes place, Trump should not only meet with Rouhani but with Iran’s ultimate spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well.
Both Muslim leaders represent the Iran-led Shiite peoples of Islam as distinguished from the Sunni Muslims led by Saudi Arabia. Their wide-ranging legendary differences are as deep-seated as the Catholic-Protestant feuds of old.
President Rouhani has reportedly said, “If I knew that going to a meeting and visiting a person would help my country’s development and resolve the problems of the people, I would not miss it.”
He forcefully added “We have to negotiate, we have to find a solution, and we have to solve the problem.”
It will be recalled that in May, 2018, Trump rashly pulled the US out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), popularly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, which was reached between Iran and six world powers — the United States under then President Barrack Obama, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany. Except for Germany, the five signatories to the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran are permanent members of the UN Security Council.
The nuclear pact was a result of two years of intense, long drawn-out negotiations aimed at curbing Iran’s capability to develop nuclear weapons, in exchange for lifting the crippling economic sanctions imposed on the Persian Gulf country.
As part of the agreement, Iran agreed to reduce its uranium enrichment program in such a way that it could maintain the country’s energy needs but without the capacity to build a nuclear weapon.
Iran agreed to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), UN’s nuclear watchdog agency, to inspect its nuclear facilities.
The international sanctions against Iran were lifted in 2016, when the IAEA declared that Iran was complying with the terms of the agreement.
However, two years later in 2018, President Trump abandoned the multinational nuclear pact, saying that Iran did not fulfill its obligations under the agreement. He then imposed economic sanctions which have been unduly hurting the Iran economy and people.
Succeeding events in the Persian Gulf — the US shooting down an Iranian drone and vice versa, Iran threatening to close down the Strait of Hormuz, a critical waterwayfor the world’s oil supply — have drawn Washington and Tehran closer to a direct military confrontation, which has become a continuing, ever-increasing anxiety in the Middle East and the international community.
We know that the Trump-Rouhani meeting would not immediately put an end to the decades-long mistrust and hostility between the US and Iran, but it would at the very least be a major first step towards a settlement that hopefully would lead to a prolonged absence of constant tension and threat of war, and indeed towards peace, security and development in the tension-filled Middle East, with both sides having muscular allies in the East-West divide.
We are off to speaking engagements in Europe with wife Gina, and then to Cyprus with business leader Michael Chen and his wife Marissa, and hopefully to Baku, Azerbaijan, to speak at the Women-and-Youth Wings of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) led by ICAPP Secretary General Park Ro-byug, former South Korean ambassador to Russia.
The meetings will be followed by a larger conference in Cambodia under Premier Hun Sen to be convened by the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) led by its founder from South Korea, Madame Hak Ja Han Moon, and the UPF Chairman from New York, Dr. Thomas Walsh.
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