IRAN Rohani, Pope Francis Meet At Vatican, Exchange GiftsF92467B2-4E50-4F95-A8D4-39B1A1C41AE6_cx11_cy3_cw89_mw1024_s_n_r1

During the last week in January, 2016, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani acted on his acceptance of a hand delivered invitation by Italy’s foreign minister at the behest of the prime minister to visit Italy and its ancient civilization. Soon after this trip, the Iranian president plans to travel to France on January 27. The primary purpose for these scheduled meetings was for both worlds to re-establish business trade ties and agreements.

So, after January 25, he and 120 Iranian officials and businessmen met with several Italian dignitaries including Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, President Sergio Mattarella, 500 Italian business representatives and of course, Pope Francis at the Vatican.

IRAN President-Rohani-and-Pope-Francis-at-Vatican-2.jpg 00

A 1/26/16 news posting by Stephanie Kirchgaessner in The Guardian, describes President Hassan Rouhani’s meeting with Pope Paul Francis in the following terms:

“The Vatican has long maintained diplomatic relations with Iran even as the republic was shunned by much of the western world.”

“The two leaders discussed the conclusion and implementation of the nuclear deal – which Pope Francis strongly endorsed – and the important role Iran and other countries in the Middle East play in seeking “political solutions” to the problems that plague the region, as well as stopping the spread of terrorism and arms trafficking.”

IRAN President-Rohani-and-Pope-Francis-at-Vatican-2

“The meeting lasted about 40 minutes and included an exchange of gifts. The pope received a hand-made carpet from the city of Qom and a book of reproductions by painter Mahmoud Farshchian, while Rouhani was given a medallion of St Martin and copies of the pope’s encyclical on the environment, in English and Arabic.”

“I thank you very much for the visit. I have high hopes in peace,” the pope told Rouhani, according to the Catholic News Service. Rouhani responded by asking the pope to pray for him.”

Italian cartoon making fun of covering nude statutes
Italian cartoon making fun of covering nude statutes

The big news item publicized in the local papers was how the Vatican’s nude statutes were covered during this visit. There were many Italians who did not approve. Also, wine was not served out of respect to President Rouhani’s Muslim faith which bars the consumption of alcohol. These were major water cooler discussions.

Most of the remaining time that the Iranian leader spent in Italy was devoted to business development. Both Italy and France were major trading partners with Iran for years prior to the 2010 sanctions. Within a couple of weeks of Iran signing off on the Iran Nuclear Agreement in July, 2015, both countries made overtures towards rebuilding old trading ties. It is widely reported that Iran and Italy have already signed around $18.4 billion in deals in the energy, mining, infrastructure, and shipbuilding industries. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani enthusiastically indicated his desire to have Italy as his first trading partner as he invited both of Italy’s top leaders to come to Iran.

IRAN rouhani_benedikt_pope_260116

The 1/25/16 Iran Primer reports details about some of the business negations which are being conducted by Iran, Italy and France along with other European Union countries. It is an eye opener as to how long the U.S. could have counted on our European friends to continue with economic sanctions against Iran. Under these circumstances, it is hard to figure out how the U.S. republicans seeking the presidential nominee prize can continue to promise cancelling the 2015 Iran Nuclear deal. Here are some excerpts:


“Previously, on Aug. 4, 2015, Gentiloni and Economic Development Minister Federica Guidi traveled to Iran for a two-day visit, accompanied by Italian businessmen and economic activists. They met with Minister of Industry, Mines, and Trade Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh and other officials.”
“Italy, which used to be one of Iran’s major trade partners, has been trying to revive economic ties with Iran. During the August visit, Mediobanca, Italy’s development ministry, and export credit agency SACE signed a memorandum of understanding “to facilitate future economic and commercial relations between the two countries.”
Italy's PM Renzi (right)
Italy’s PM Renzi (right)
“On July 23, French President Francois Hollande and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani discussed increasing bilateral cooperation in a phone conversation. A statement released by Hollande’s office “expressed the wish for Iran to contribute positively to the resolution of crises in the Middle East.” Hollande also emphasized increasing tourism between the two countries, since it “can play a major role in advancement of cooperation between Iran and France.”
“French foreign minister Laurent Fabius visited Tehran on July 29, 2015, meeting with Zarif, Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh, and other senior officials. It was the first visit to Iran by a French foreign minister in 12 years. He also extended an invitation for President Hassan Rouhani to visit President Hollande in France in November (postponed until 1/2016 due to ISIS attack). “Things will, we hope, be able to change,” Fabius said during his visit. In late September, a French delegation with representatives from more than 100 companies visited Tehran and opened a trade office.”
European Union
“On November 7, European Parliament chief Martin Schulz met with officials in Tehran, at the invitation of the Iranian parliament. It was the first time a head of the European Parliament had visited Iran. “The Islamic Republic of Iran is an element of stability in a region full of instability,” Schulz said during the visit.”
‘Previously, on July 28, E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini had traveled Tehran for a one-day visit with senior Iranian officials. She was accompanied by deputy E.U. foreign policy chief Helga Schmid. Mogherini said the nuclear deal “has the capacity to pave the ground for wider cooperation between Iran and the West.”
IRAN Iranian President Hassan Rouhani _87964744_031157840-2
“After meeting with Mogherini, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Iran and the European Union had agreed to hold talks “over different issues, including energy cooperation…human rights, confronting terrorism, and regional issues.”
“Mogherini’s visit coincided with her (7/28/15) op-ed in The Guardian, in which she argued that cooperation between Iran and the West could help defeat ISIS.”
“The Vienna deal tells us that we all have much to earn if we choose cooperation over confrontation. Making the most out of this opportunity is entirely up to us. But nothing good will happen if we do not work hard for it. We Europeans have a long tradition of cultural and economic relationship with Iran. Before sanctions began in 2005, cooperation between our parts of the world spanned many areas, from energy to trade. But our shared interests go well beyond the economy.
“Last week Europe’s foreign ministers tasked me with exploring “ways in which the EU could actively promote a more cooperative regional framework” in the wake of the Vienna deal. Isis (also known as Da’esh) is spreading its vicious and apocalyptic ideology in the Middle East and beyond. There is nothing more worrisome to Isis than cooperation between “the west” and the Muslim world, for it defies the narrative of a clash of civilizations the group is trying to revive. An alliance of civilizations can be our most powerful weapon in the fight against terror.”
French President Francois Hollande (R) REUTERS/Stephane de Sakutin/Pool
French President Francois Hollande (R) REUTERS/Stephane de Sakutin/Pool
United Kingdom
“On August 23, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond traveled to Tehran to reopen the British Embassy, which had been closed since 2011. In a joint press conference with Hammond, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Iran and Britain had “entered a new phase of relations based on mutual respect.”
Hammond was the first British Foreign Secretary to visit Iran in 12 years. He met with Rouhani, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani, and other officials during his visit. Hammond was accompanied by a group of British business leaders hoping to reestablish ties in Iran.”
“British Prime Minister David Cameron had called Rouhani to congratulate him on the nuclear deal on July 16. “You (President Rouhani) had a very constructive role in striking this final deal,” he said. During the conversation, Rouhani added that “I think there exists the necessary potential to rebuild relations between Iran and Britain.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, third left seated, attends a meeting with French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron and French business leaders in Paris. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, attends a meeting with French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron and French business leaders in Paris. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
“The British government also relaxed its travel warnings for Iran shortly after the deal was announced. “The risk to British nationals has changed, in part due to decreasing hostility under President Rouhani’s Government,” British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on July 25.”
“The two leaders also discussed expanding trade ties, the conflict in Syria, and the four dual British-Iranian nationals held in Iran.”
Iran Talks. Abschluss Iran Verhandlungen. UNO. Wien, 14.07.2015, Foto: Dragan Tatic
“On July 20, German vice chancellor and economics minister Sigmar Gabriel arrived in Iran for a three-day visit, hoping to resume “economic contacts with Iran, which were traditionally good.” He was the first high-ranking Western official to visit Iran since the final nuclear deal was announced on July 14.”
“Gabriel emphasized the need to cooperate with Iran on issues like human rights and its relationship with Israel. “You can’t have a good economic relationship with Germany in the long-term if we don’t discuss such issues.”
“German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Tehran in mid-October to discuss trade ties and attempt to de-escalate the growing tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.”


  1. Was the goal of Obama to lift sanctions to bring Iran into the world community and let it see the benefit thereof and thus lessen their willingness to be belligerent ? If so I think its a great breakthrough.


    • Yes, it was a consideration and a hoped for result. Also, this why those who were for the war against Iran were strongly opposed to the deal.

      P.S. I wouldn’t give President Obama all the credit. I suspect our European friends were providing helpful suggestions.


Comments are closed.