He sees potential in energy sector with several billion-dollar of bilateral trade

Iranian Ambassador to Bangladesh Mohammad Reza Nafar has said Iran wants to engage deeply with Bangladesh in the energy sector and make the bilateral trade volume of several US$ billions noting that Bangladesh is going to emerge as a big economic force in the world, especially in the region.

"Iran is ready to engage deeply in Bangladesh's energy sector, especially in the area of petroleum gas. Our bilateral trade volume should be several US$ billions which is not a satisfactory level at this moment," he told Dhaka Courier in an interview.

The envoy said there is a growing interest on both sides, and leaders of the two countries are sincere to strengthen the relations between the two countries.

Ambassador Reza Nafar said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will visit Bangladesh in March to attend the D-8 or Developing-8 Summit and the visit will give a big push towards strengthening the ties further.

Bangladesh will host the Summit of the D-8 comprising Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey.

In March, Bangladesh will also celebrate the 50 years of its independence when a number of global leaders, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will join the mega event.

Appreciating Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's leadership, the Iranian Ambassador said all the economic indices show Bangladesh is marching ahead with a significant growth under a skilled and prudent leadership when an economic downturn is prevailing in the entire world due to Covid-19.

"There's an ample scope to expand trade relations with Bangladesh. We hope to reach a certain stage following the bilateral discussions," said Ambassador Reza Nafar.

Terming Bangladesh an old and trusted friend, he said leaders of the two countries remain active to take forward the relations. "Our relationship is getting strengthened every day."

Responding to a question, the Ambassador said the two countries are not happy with the current volume of bilateral trade. "We hope, with recent initiatives and sincere efforts from both sides, the bilateral trade relations will grow."

Leaders of the two countries remain active so that the relations can move forward. "Iran is ready to expand its relations with Bangladesh in all areas. We've no limitation to expand ties with Bangladesh."

Ambassador Reza Nafar said the US' unethical embargo created a barrier to trade ties with Iran to some extent.

Another big reason, according to him, is that the two countries' private sectors are not aware of each other's ability, and they are not well-informed. "But the two countries' interest is important for the improvement of relations. That exists."

He said he along with the Bangladesh Ambassador to Iran is working to engage in private sectors. "There has been improvement but yet to reach the desired level."

The Ambassador greeted the people of Bangladesh on the occasion of 50 years of Bangladesh's Independence and ongoing celebration of the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Rohingya Repatriation

Ambassador Reza Nafar said the international community, United Nations and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) should plan an effective role for the safe and voluntary repatriation of Rohingyas.

He said they realise the problems of sheltering so many refugees Iran also hosts huge Afghan and Iraqi refugees as 951,142 Afghan refugees and 28,268 Iraqi refugees reside in Iran.

According to UNHCR, some 951,142 Afghan and 28,268 Iraqi refugees reside in Iran while Bangladesh says it is hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas in Cox's Bazar and Bhasan Char.

"[The] Rohingya issue is, in fact, a humanitarian issue. Bangladesh deserves big thanks for sheltering Rohingyas. The entire world is grateful to Bangladesh. History will always remember Bangladesh's role," said the Iranian Ambassador.

He, however, said it is extremely sad to see that the Rohingya problem remains unresolved due to some complexities.

The Ambassador appreciated the tripartite mechanism mediated by China between Bangladesh and Myanmar. "We support the initiative taken by China. We hope to see a successful outcome through this tripartite mechanism."

Ambassador Reza Nafar said they want to see the emergence of a peaceful world where there will be no refugees.

"We hope the Myanmar government will soon take steps to take back its nationals implementing the commitment that the Myanmar government gave at international level," he said.

The Ambassador said since the very beginning of the Rohingya crisis, Iran keeps supporting Bangladesh policy towards Rohingya. "Iran's humanitarian support will continue."

He hoped that the Rohingyas who are living in Bangladesh will abide by Bangladesh laws and maintain peace and discipline until the problem is resolved with repatriation. "We hope they'll be able to return home peacefully."

Iran-US Relations

The Iranian Ambassador said they hope that the Joe Biden Administration will find a logical ground and redesign the US policy to compensate Iran for the damage it suffered.

The envoy said he sees a beautiful world with the end to the Donald Trump administration that unilaterally ditched the Iran deal.

He said the change of government is not important but the change of policy is important in the United States.

"We'll be waiting to see what kind of visible steps President Joe Biden takes in changing the US policy," Ambassador Reza Nafar said adding that they will not go for any deal afresh.

He said discussions can only be held on how they return to the previous deal and how they will compensate Iran. "We didn't walk out from the deal, but the US did."

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