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Charles Flanagan: ‘We are Concerned about Iranian Activity in the Region’ | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charles Flanagan. Tom Stoelker

Riyadh- Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charles Flanagan expressed his concern regarding Iranian activity in the region and its attempts to fuel conflicts.

He said that he met with former Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Larijani in Dublin as they discussed many issues, and he called Iran to adopt the political and diplomatic approach in order to boost security and stability in the region and stay away from strengthening a party against another.

Flanagan explained that Ireland’s policy lies in staying away from fueling conflicts and intervening in the internal affairs of other countries.

In his latest visit to Saudi Arabia, he said that these matters usually top the subjects of discussion in addition to the importance of enhancing political and diplomatic work to maintain stability and boost peace in the region.

Flanagan assured his country’s rejection for any kind of terrorism and violence, pointing out that Ireland condemns Houthi’s attempts to direct missiles toward Makkah and considers it real terrorist act that should be faced in different ways.

He said that Ireland’s foreign policy rejects terrorism in all its forms and stressed the need to reach attainable solutions to restore peace and stability in the region through holding talks, thus reaching political solutions.

He confirmed that the Kingdom is a pivotal state in the region and noted that Saudi-Irish relations are solid and Saudi Vision 2030 will make these relations even firmer.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat in Riyadh on Sunday, Flanagan confessed that Brexit had a clear impact on Ireland’s economy as it raised new challenges on strong economic ties and joint borders.

He said that Ireland is working with its partners in the United Kingdom and the European Union to address these challenges and guarantee that its exceptional situation is safe.

Therefore, official parties are working with Irish labor sector to help and manage Brexit results.

On the other hand, Flanagan explained that Saudi Arabia is his country’s largest trading partner in the Gulf region as they share a four decades business and many common interests since they also share similar visions in many issues of mutual interest.

He indicated that the Kingdom might become the best strategic partner for Ireland, noting that Dublin’s strategy aims at boosting relations with Riyadh.

He said that value of trade exchange between the two countries reached €1.5 billion in 2015.

Flanagan stated that there are around 3,000 Irish residents in Riyadh whereas there are 7,000 Saudis who travel every year to Ireland for tourism or education.

When asked about his assessment for the situations in Yemen and Syria and the role Ireland is playing in these two crises, Flanagan said that despite Ireland is an independent and small state, it plays a major role in these matters in order to reach a positive solution, especially that it is has been an active member in the United Nations for 66 years now.

He said that Ireland also operates under several U.N. umbrellas that take care of people’s lives and discusses solutions with many activists in the region, especially Saudi Arabia, which helps Ireland in delivering humanitarian aids to areas suffering from conflicts.

Flanagan discussed with a number of Saudi officials opportunities arising from the implementation of Vision 2030 for Ireland and Saudi Arabia that would result in stepped-up trade relations and is expected to redound to the benefit not only of the two countries, but also to their respective citizens as well.

Flanagan said that “Vision 2030 outlines a comprehensive and ambitious program to secure the future of Saudi Arabia.

It aims to build a more resilient domestic economy that is less reliant on oil export revenue.”

“Vision 2030, with its focus on privatization and the creation of a new economic base, presents real opportunities for Irish businesses,” Flanagan said.

He added that “in Ireland, we transitioned from an agrarian economy to a high-tech one and I expect there are lessons to be gleaned here from our experience.”