Regional leaders meet for first time since Iran nuclear deal
For Nariman Sadri, general manager for pharmaceuticals company Sanofi in Iran, the prospect of economic sanctions against his country being lifted in exchange for international supervision of its nuclear programme has resulted in a sense of “real optimism” in Iranian society. The 38-year-old is one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders, and he travels to the Dead Sea as a voice from a country to which the international business community has long waited to gain access. “Now is the time for pre-opening Iran to the world,” says Sadri. “It is time to engage more in global subjects.”
The Iran question is likely to be discussed at great length in the corridors of King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Center; it will also be addressed officially at the event alongside topics such as Arab security, economic relations, and global energy shifts. World Economic Forum senior director and head of Middle East and North Africa Miroslav Dusek says that, with the final framework of the nuclear deal still to be decided on, any official discussion of Iran at the event is set to be more restrained than that on the fringes. “The diplomatic framework needs to be completed for the whole issue to move forward,” says Dusek. “So this is really a milestone for clarifying and building more understanding from the different stakeholders.”
The World Economic Forum has already played a role in the Iranian rapprochement. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani spoke at the World Economic Forum event in Davos in 2014 just five months after he came to power. Dusek says that this was an important moment in the mending of relations, allowing Rouhani to set out “his vision for Iran and its role in the world following his election.” Bloomberg reported Rouhani telling Davos delegates that Iran would not impede progress towards a final nuclear accord with world powers and would use “constructive engagement” to help Iran’s sanctions-hit economy recover. “One of the theoretical and practical pillars of my government is constructive engagement with the world,” he said in his address. “Without international engagement, objectives such as growth, creativity and quality are unattainable. We will make use of active foreign policy to achieve economic development.”
Since Rouhani’s address, a series of talks between Iran and what is known as the P5+1— the US, Russia, China, France, the UK and Germany—on Iran’s nuclear programme culminated with a 2 April preliminary framework deal. Both sides continue to spar over the precise terms of the final framework, with suggestions the 30 June deadline will have to be extended. Concessions from both sides are being met with strong opposition within Iran and the US—which is leading the P5+1 negotiations—respectively.
If a final agreement is reached, the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran will be key to the economic development Rouhani talked about at Davos. Sadri is confident there will be a positive knock-on effect on his line of business if this is achieved. While he acknowledges that Iran is “not embargoed for pharmaceuticals,” he says that due to the wider trade restrictions, “occasionally in the past three or four years we faced shortages of certain medicines or products in the market.” The importing of pharmaceuticals or other essential goods still needs secure channels for money transaction, he says, which has been lacking since the sanctions were put in place. “Definitely there are patients who did not receive proper medication and treatment. Now we are hopeful that with better access we are going to have a healthier society.”
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