In a thorough interview with AVA Diplomatic, the Ambassador of Algeria to Iran elaborated on the efforts made to extend Algeria’s economic and cultural relations with Iran, and emphasized the principles of the Algerian revolution which aim at realizing democracy. Mr. Ahriz is on the firm belief that the Algerian officials would not tolerate any interference in their interior affairs.
AVA Diplomatic’s Exclusive Interview with
Abdelmoun’aam Ahriz, Algeria’s Ambassador to Iran
Interview by Mohammadreza Nazari
How large have trades been between Iran and Algeria last year?
Recent statistics indicate that the value of trade between Algeria and Iran was 22.4 million USD. Although this figure is modest, in my eyes, we register a steady increase year after year of commercial exchanges. For instance, in 2015, the trade flows between our two countries did not exceed 15.5 million USD.
What agreements have been signed by the two countries to add diversity to the items in trade?
There is indeed an important legal framework aiming to encourage and promote economic and trade ties between Algeria and Iran. There are specific agreements for each sector of activity and Joint Technical Committees that meet regularly to assess the state of cooperation and make the necessary recommendations to go forward.
For example, there are several cooperation agreements in the fields of industry, agriculture, fairs and exhibitions, between our twoChambers of Commerce and businessmen of both countries.
It is important to emphasize that the private sector is fully committed to the development of economic and trade relations between Algeria and Iran. We can mention the signatureof many agreements between Algerian businessmen and major Iranian automobile groups for the establishment of vehicle assemblyplants in Algeria, during May 2016 in Tehran.
I would like also to add that more than twenty large Iranian companies are currently based in Algeria and carry out activities in various sectors.
What agreements have been signed by two countries’ officials to further enhance the trade volumes between them?
The leaders of the two countries have indeed a strong political will to establish genuine economic links and continue to explore the ways to strengthen and extend the bilateral cooperation in all fields of common interest. Bilateral legal instruments are one of the ways that can facilitate and increase trade flows between Algeria and Iran.
On the occasion of the working visit paid by Mr. Abdesslam Bouchaoureb, former Algerian Minister for Industry and Mines, to Tehran, on May 16th and17th, 2016, several economic agreements were concluded, all of which aim to raise the level of economic cooperation, particularly in the industrial sector.
When will the 3rd joint economic commission, between Iran and Algeria be held? What will be its most important agenda?
According to its statute, the High Joint Cooperation Commission meets annually and alternately, in Algiers and Teheran. The second session of the Commission was held in Algiers in December 2015. The next meeting, which will be held in Tehran, is not yet definitively scheduled.
Regarding the agenda of the 3rd session of the High Joint Cooperation Commission , this matter will be the subject of discussions and consultations at the appropriate time between our two countries, but it is certain that the two parties will proceed to a complete assessment of the state of their cooperation, since December 2015, and will define a new roadmap for the coming years.
Saipa and Iran Khodro have concluded two separate agreements with Algerian private partner to establish light vehicule assembly plants in Algeria. When the first Iranian car will be produced in Algeria?
The Algerian government is about to define a new regulation on car industry activities. I hope that after this regulation is adopted and as soon as the Iranian companies adapt their projects to its requirements, we will rapidly see the first Iranian car made in Algeria.
How is the banking cooperation between Iranian and Algerian banks? What agreements have been reached in that area?
As you know, Algerian and Iranian banks have always had contact and their relation has been boosted after the signing and entry into force of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the six great powers. Today, in order to support investment and cooperation projects approved in both countries, representatives of these banks meet, discuss and exchange information on how to achieve their goals.
A delegation of a major Iranian bank made a working visit to Algiers, in May, and in last March, an Algerian delegation from a major financial institution visited Tehran. Similarly, a major Iranian bank has expressed the wish to establish cooperative relations with some Algerian banks.
These contacts were preceded by a working visit to Tehran on September15th, 2015 by the Governor of the Central Bank in Algeria.During this visit, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Governors of the Central Banks of the two countries, which establishes a Joint Technical Committee on Banking. This Committee held its first session on the occasion of the visit of a delegation of the Iranian Central Bank to Algiers, from December 29th, 2015 to January1st, 2016. The second session of this committee is scheduled to take place in Tehran in the coming months.
What measures have been considered to elevate the cultural cooperation between the two countries?
First of all, I would like to point out that the Algerian and Iranian people are united by common civilization and cultural ties and share the same universal values of peace, solidarity, freedom and stability. On this basis, the two countries have been working for several years to strengthen the cultural dimension in their cooperative relationship, aiming at the rapprochement between the two brotherly and friendly peoples.
In this spirit, a Framework Agreement for Cultural Cooperation between the Governments of the two countries was signed in Algiers on 25 December 2002. This agreement defined and established the basis for a lasting and efficient cultural cooperation. Its implementation has given positive results and it continues to open wide spaces to different actors interested in deepening and expanding cultural cooperation.
On December17th, 2015, the Ministries of Culture of the two countries signed, in Algiers, an executive cooperation program for the period 2016-2018. There are also specific agreements to promote cooperation in specific areas such as film production, television and the arts in general.
Several cultural events have been held in the two countries in recent years such as the Iranian cultural week in Algeria in October 2015; the Algerian cultural week In Iran in December 2016; the visit of a delegation of Algerian filmmakers to Tehran at the beginning of May 2017; the participation, in January2017, of Mr. Azzedine Mihoubi, Algerian Minister of Culture, at the opening ceremony of the festivities “Machhad capital of Islamic culture 2017”; and the working visit to Algiers of Mr. Salehi Seyed Reza, Iranian Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance,in March 2017.
What high-level Algerian authorities shall be visiting Iran in the near future?
The bilateral agenda includes a series of ministerial visits, but their final dates have not yet been agreed. In addition to the 3rdsession of the Algerian-Iranian High joint Commission and the meeting of its Follow-up Committee in Tehran, the work plan includes visits to Tehran by Algerian Ministers of Justice, of health and of Post & TICs.
After tensions became viral between Qatar and the Persian Gulf States, scattered news was out saying Algeria supplies Qatar’s needed nutritional items. Based on what parameters have Algeria and Qatar arranged their relations under the current circumstances?
One of Algeria’s most important policies after gaining its independence was to not interfere with other countries’ internal affairs, and on the other hand, we cannot stand another country’s interference with our interior matters, either.
We maintain fine ties to the neighboring countries such as Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Western Sahara, Niger, Mali and other Arab countries based on the historical, religious, lingual, cultural and civilizational commonalities we share.
Algeria, of course, has always tried to find a solution to problems whenever they have arisen between our brother countries.
If two countries run into a problem and accept Algeria to intercede between them, Algeria has never refused and has urged every country to work out their disputes through negotiation. Even about Qatar, we have always said that the two sides that are party to this matter should follow logic and choose to negotiate with one another.
Given that the ISIS has been defeated in Iraq and Syria, are its forces probable to be reequipped in North Africa?
The ISIS is a serious threat to all countries and whenever it is kicked out of somewhere, it begins to look for a new place to have itself deployed. One of their destinations is North Africa, since it had been previously in Libya and has always tried to make its way to Algeria from there.
That is why Algeria is so sensitive and conscious toward this matter, and has taken constant care of the borders. But that is not the only case, because the ISIS has also entered Mali, Côte d’Ivoire Burkina Faso , Burkina Faso and even Europe and as a result, we pay due attention to it, too.
Algeria’s fight with terrorism began in the 90s and all military forces in the country, including the Army, police, customs and border agents are constantly on the lookout guarding the borders. That, however, requires huge human and financial resources which have always been heavy for us, but we have no other choice and need to defend our security.
Is it possible that the ISIS forces who have returned to Africa get reunited with other groups such as Boko Harram and form new ones?
That is not completely predictable. Algeria sees them as terrorist groups and criminals, anyway.
They may do whatever it takes to accomplish their objectives. They have survived on smuggling as in smuggling drugs and arms as well as abduction and that is how they have been able to continue their activities.
Is there any cooperation between Iran and Algeria’s security services in counterterrorism? Would you explain about this?
The terrorism is a global phenomenon, the terrorist attacks perpetuated recently all over the world showed clearly the urgency of a joint internationally coordinated struggle against terrorists groups.
Algeria and Iran cooperate in the framework of activities organized by “Interpol” and through the organization of specialized training courses by the Police Services of the two countries.
Algeria is celebrating its National Day on the 1st of November. What is the signification of this date?
On this date we are commemorating the outbreak of the glorious Algerian revolution, which marks this year its 63rd anniversary.
On this occasion, we remember the sacrifice of one and a half million martyrs, a heavy price paid by our people to restore its State and regain its sovereignty and independence, after 132 years of a long colonial night. Today we are also celebrating a unique revolution which is a source of inspiration for all freedom-loving people all over the world, a revolution which has been taken as a model by oppressed people in their struggle for liberation and emancipation from colonialism and apartheid.
The first communiqué of this revolution, known as the November 1st communiqué, stated the founding principles of the modern Algerian State, both on domestic and external levels.
On the domestic level, this text underlined that the objective of the Popular Revolution was the restoration of the Algerian State on a democratic and social basis. Pursuant to this goal, the independent Algeria worked resolutely, on one hand, for the consolidation of its democracy, as is shown by the recent constitutional reform adopted in February 2016. On the other hand, the efforts of its authorities are aimed to provide decent living conditions for the Algerian citizens and to suppress the disastrous effects of a destructive colonization. These efforts are clearly reflected by the large-scale public spending in the areas of housing, education and health.
On the external level, the November first communiqué has defined the general framework of the Algerian diplomatic action, which consists of a set of principals, namely, the respect of States’ sovereignty, non-interference in the internal affairs of other States, the peaceful resolution of conflicts, and the support to the right of people to self-determination. Till this day, these principals shape our foreign policy, as is shown by the stances taken by Algeria toward the crisis in the Arab and Sahel regions.
What are the main landmarks of the Algerian diplomacy since the independence in 1962?
Independent Algeria remained attached to the noble principles anchored by the war of the national revolution and set them up as a rooted and constant doctrine which guides its foreign interactions.
Hence, Algeria has given its support to many causes, such as its support for the legitimate right of the Palestinian people for the establishment of a Palestinian independent State, with Al-Quds as its capital. In addition, Algeria deployed efforts to promote the decolonization of Africa, and continue to do so through its support for the legitimate right of the Saharawi people to self-determination.
Moreover, among the principal landmarks in the history of Algerian diplomacy, I can specifically mention:
-the hosting of the 4th Non-Aligned Movement Summit in September 1973, in Algiers, which witnessed a qualitative leap in the struggle of the Developing countries; through the emerging of the demand for a just World Economic Order that takes into consideration the rights and interests of these countries;
– the historic decisions taken by the 29th UN General Assembly in 1974, under the presidency of Mr. Abdelaziz Bouteflika, allowing the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, to give a speech at the United Nations tribune and the expulsion of the South African’s apartheid regime representative from the General Assembly.
– Algeria’s name is also closely linked to peaceful efforts to achieve peace and resolve conflicts all over the world. I can mention, for instance, the settlement of the border conflict between Iraq and Iran in 1975, the end of the American hostage crisis in 1981, the settlement of the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 2002, as well as the conclusion of the peace agreement between Malian parties, in 2015. Currently, Algeria continues its contributions in efforts aiming to find a lasting political solution to the Libyan crisis, in order to preserve the unity and territorial integrity of this bordering sister country.
-Algeria played a leading role in terms of the enhancement of the African Union’s action, through the integration of good governance and sustainable development in the policy of this continental Organization.
– based on its dolorous experience in a lonely struggle against terrorism in the 1990s, Algeria has become an international reference in the fight against terrorism and an example to follow concerning the policy of national reconciliation