GENEVA: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrived in Switzerland on Monday at the start of European trip billed as of “prime importance” after the US pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
The tour, which also includes a stop in Austria, is part of Tehran’s efforts to secure Europe’s continued support for the landmark agreement aimed at preventing Iran from building the atomic bomb.
Substantial parts of the historic nuclear pact were negotiated in Switzerland before it was signed in July 2015 in Vienna, where the Rouhani will head on Wednesday.
The trip will be an “opportunity to talk about the future of the [nuclear] agreement,” he told reporters at Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport before boarding his flight, state television showed.
Rouhani’s trip will be of “prime importance” as it could “provide a more precise picture of cooperation between Iran and Europe”, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi said in comments carried by the semi-official ISNA news agency on Saturday.
Austria on Sunday took over the European Union’s six-month rotating presidency, while Switzerland represents US interests in Iran owing to the absence of diplomatic relations between Washington and Tehran. Vienna is also the home of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, which monitors Iran’s compliance with the accord.
Rouhani is scheduled to attend a meeting on Tuesday with the Swiss chamber of commerce on innovation in the health sector. The two governments are also due to sign agreements on economic cooperation.
There will be a similar focus on finances in Vienna, where the Iranian president is expected to sign memorandums on economic cooperation according to Austrian media.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said he will speak plainly with Rouhani about Iran’s role in the Middle East, as Tehran continues to deny accusations it is destabilising the region. Kurz told the Austrian news agency APA he will also find “clear words” to discuss the human rights situation in Iran. The European tour is part of a broader diplomatic effort by Tehran to rally support in the wake of Trump’s May 8 withdrawal from what is formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Last month Rouhani visited China, while Zarif embarked on a tour of Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia.
The foreign minister on June 24 warned that failing to save the nuclear deal would be “very dangerous” for Tehran. But the Iranian government has said it will not continue to abide by the agreement if doing so goes against its economic interests.