Exclusive Interview with Iranian Ambassador to BiH Mahmoud Heidari

After the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, the Islamic Republic of Iran was among the first countries to recognize Bosnia and Herzegovina’s independence and 25 years ago, on May 8th, 1994, while Sarajevo was still under the siege, Dr. Ali Ekber Velayati former minister of foreign affairs opened Embassy of Iran during his official visit to Sarajevo. 

The Islamic Republic of Iran has always been with the authorities and the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina since the beginning of relations between the two countries, and no explanation is needed for the humanitarian assistance of Iran to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war and services provided in the field of refugees return.

Current Iranian Ambassador to BiH Mahmoud Heidari starts exclusive interview with Sarajevo Times by saying that the Balkan region, in which BiH is located, occupies a significant place in the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Mr. Heidari highligthed that, following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, the Islamic Republic of Iran put political, economic and cultural relations with BiH on the agenda, and the opening embassy in the most difficult circumstances of the siege of Sarajevo showed Iran’s determination and commitment to expand cooperation.

“Over the past 26 years, communications and visits by officials of the two countries at different levels have been occurred and good cooperation is currently underway,” H.E. said.

“Since the beginning of my mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there have been numerous visits by BiH’s officials to Iran, such as the visit of the former  Chairman of the BiH Presidency, the Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations of BiH, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of BiH, the former Speaker of the House of Peoples of BiH and the mayors of several cities,” Mr.Heidari said, adding that in return, visits were made by Iranian officials, such as visits by several important parliamentary delegations and visits by H.E. Mr. Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister. 

All these visits are an indicator of the good relations between the two countries at the political and parliamentary level.

When it comes to economic relations between the two countries, it is important to note that several economic agreements were signed in the fields of trade, banking, joint venture, transport, cooperation of chambers of commerce.

“During one period due to the cruel sanctions imposed by some arrogant forces against the Iranian people, these relations were somewhat affected, but after the Nuclear Agreement, this trend changed and the conditions for the development of economic and trade relations between the two countries got better.,” Ambassador explains.

“I believe that we must provide space for private sector activities and cooperation between businessmen and investors of the two countries, and as I said, the economic potential of the two countries is much higher than the current level and there are numerous economic opportunities for the two countries, especially in the energy fields, petrochemicals, minerals, agricultural and food products and tourism,” Ambassador says.

In addition, H.E. advises that it is needed to increase the awareness of  businessmen of the two sides about mutual benefits and capacities. BiH’s businessmen, for example, can access the Asian market through Iran, and Iranian businessmen can access the EU market through Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

Fortunately, data released by relevant BiH institutions shows that trade between the two countries has been increasing over the last three years, of course, efforts should be doubled to accelerate this growth. 

“Here I would like to send a message to BiH businessmen and companies that the doors of the Embassy are always open for them to cooperate with Iran,” Ambassador concludes his answer about BiH-Iran economic relations.

Asked about areas where the relations between the two countries can be expanded, Ambassador explains that there are numerous similarities between the peoples of the two countries and a clear affection for each other. Given this mutual inclination, there are numerous areas for the development of bilateral relations in all political, economic, cultural, parliamentary and international areas.

“As I have already emphasized in my meetings with officials at different state, entity and cantonal levels, all regions of Bosnia and Herzegovina have good attractions and potentials, and we, as the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, welcome their greater activation to promote relations between the two countries, especially in economic and cultural fields. I hope that accelerating the formation of new government and parliament will create the opportunity for more efforts and planning to strengthen relations between our countries,” Ambassador explains.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a crossroad of religions of Islam, Orthodox Christianity and Catholicism, which is adjacent to the European Union and at the same time has a long history of cultural relations with the East, including Iran. 

Continuing on the similar subject, H.E. Heidari says that there are numerous cultural similarities between the peoples of Iran and Bosnia and Herzegovina; the presence of numerous Persian language manuscripts in the Gazi Husrev-bey Library, and the emergence of Bosnian poets and writers who, under the influence of Iranian works, have written or translated works into Bosnian, is a solid example of cultural ties between the peoples of the two countries. 

“BiH writers such as Fevzi Mostari, author of the remarkable work Bulbulistan, Sheikh Effendi Sudi, author of comments by Sadi Bustan, Muhammad Tahir and Mustafa Bosnjak, authors of commentaries on Mevlanina Mesnevija, Fehim Bajraktarevic, translator of Hajam’s Rubaiya, and Dr. Becir Dzaka, translator of Divan Hafiz Shirazi, are examples of bridges of historical and cultural ties between the two countries,” H.E. added, that Persian language and literature have been studied at the University of Sarajevo for over 65 years.

Ambassador reminds the Agreement on Cultural, Scientific and Research Cooperation of the two countries has been signed in recent years, and the signing of the Agreement on the twinning of Tehran and Sarajevo and the Cooperation Agreement between the cities of Isfahan and Mortar.

“The activities of the Cultural Centre of the Islamic Republic of Iran are visible in different cultural fields, which may include holding various exhibitions of handicrafts, calligraphy, painting and photography, holding a film week, a week of Iranian culture, numerous art exhibitions with the presence of Iranian artists, as well as holding concerts of traditional music, translating and publishing books and participating in book fairs, holding seminars and roundtables on the presentation of literary, religious and cultural figures in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Ambassador explains.

Asked about embassy’s priorities, H.E. says he believes that the capacities of the relations between the two countries are much higher than the current level and that there are many opportunities in the economic, political and cultural fields. 

“The existence of economic, business and investment projects is part of the potential capacity that needs to be activated. I and my colleagues at the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Sarajevo are making efforts to develop economic, political and cultural relations and at the same time strive to remove barriers and welcome the initiatives and ideas of good BH friends in the field of relations development in all fields,” Ambassador explains. 

He adds that he thinks one of the things that can be helpful is to facilitate the mutual travel of tourists from the two countries. 

“So far I have not seen anyone from Iran who came to Sarajevo and who was not be impressed by the many attractions of this country. On the other hand, every BiH citizen who travelled to Iran also admits that the culture and civilization of Iran’s historic country and the hospitality of its people have left a mark on him or her. Therefore, I take this opportunity to recommend to all BiH citizens who have not travelled to Iran so far that they include travel to the beautiful, historical and attractive country of Iran in their plans. From this trip you will surely come back satisfied and with unforgettable memories and you will feel the hospitality and respect of the Iranian people towards the citizens of  BiH,” Ambassador concludes.

In his final remarks, Ambassador Heidari said that he wishes stability, progress and solidarity for Bosnia and Herzegovina and its people, and that he is pleased that had the valuable opportunity to live in the attractive and beautiful city of Sarajevo for several years, together with its pleasant and noble citizens, and to work to deepen the bond of friendly nations of the two countries. 

“Also, on this occasion, I want to emphasize again that, the support of independence, territorial integrity and national sovereignty of  BiH and the peaceful coexistence of all its peoples is a fundamental and unchanging policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran and that the hand of friendship of the Iranian people is extended to all people in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

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