On 13 September 2017, the first round of Australia-Iran Dialogue between the Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS) and The Australian National University (ANU) after a 10-year suspension was hosted by IPIS in Tehran, Iran. The ANU delegation was led by Professor the Hon. Gareth Evans, ANU Chancellor and former Australian Foreign Minister (1988 – 1996), and Professor Amin Saikal, Director of the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (the Middle East and Central Asia), ANU.
Other members of the delegation consisted of HE Mr Ian Biggs, Australian Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Iran, Professor Michael Wesley, Dean of the College of Asia and the Pacific, ANU, Mr Tom Harley, Managing Director of Dragoman Pty Ltd, Ms Martine Letts, CEO for the Committee for Melbourne, and Ms Rachel Larobina, secretary for the Australian delegation. The Iranian delegation was led by Dr Mohamad Kazem Sajadpour, President and Director of IPIS and Deputy Foreign Minister, and his colleagues including Mr Mohsen Rouhisefat, Deputy Director of IPIS, HE Mr Mohamad Reza Sheybani, former Iranian Ambassador to Syria, HE Mr Mohamad Farazmand, former Iranian Ambassador to Bahrain and Director General on East Asia at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Mr Mehdi Zadehali, coordinator for the Iranian Delegation.
Discussions focused on global, regional and bilateral relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Australia, with special reference to political, cultural and economic development. The delegation came away with a greater understanding of Iran’s role as a pivotal actor in the highly complex regional and international settings. Both sides agreed to continue the Dialogue as a valuable means to foster a mutual understanding of each other’s position on various issues, and to foster wider educational, cultural and social relations between the two sides.
Proceeding the Dialogue, on 12 September 2017, the ANU-led delegation met with a number of senior officials and academics. They had discussions with HE Dr Ali Akbar Velayati, senior advisor to the Supreme Leader and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, and HE Dr Kamal Kharazi, Head of the Iranian Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, advisor to the Supreme Leader and former Minister of Foreign Affairs. During these meetings, global and regional developments, the JCPOA (Nuclear Agreement) and the Syrian conflict, in particular, were discussed, and Prof. Gareth Evans also participated in a Q&A at the Council. In the meeting with representatives from Allameh Tabataba'i University, discussions focused on the expansion of educational ties between the ANU and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The ANU delegation is thankful to Dr Sajadpour, Mr Rouhisefat and Mr Zadehali, for their warm reception, facilitation of the dialogue and hospitality. It also expresses thanks to their Excellencies Mr Ian Biggs, Australian Ambassador to Iran, and Mr Abdolhossein Vahaji, Iranian Ambassador to Australia, as well as Mr Mousalreza Vahidi, Counsellor at Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Australia, for their assistance throughout the whole trip.
Now in its fifth iteration, the Australia-Iran Dialogue began in 2000 as a result of efforts of HE Mr Gholam Ali Khoshroo and Professor Saikal. Next year, 2018, will mark 50 years of uninterrupted relations between the two countries. To mark this occasion, the ANU looks forward to hosting the next round of the Dialogue in Canberra in July 2018.