March 20, 2009 / 11:29 AM / 11 years ago

INSTANT VIEW: Reaction to Obama's "new beginning" offer to Iran

WASHINGTON/TEHRAN (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama offered Iran a “new beginning” of diplomatic engagement on Friday in an unprecedented videotaped message, after decades of U.S. hostility to the Islamic Republic.

Following are Iranian, European Union and other reactions:

PRESIDENTIAL AIDE ALIAKBAR JAVANFEKR

“The Obama administration so far has just talked. By words and talking the ... problems between Iran and America cannot be solved.”

“Nowruz (the Iranian New Year which falls today) is a sign of fundamental development in nature and Obama should learn from this to make fundamental changes in his policy toward Iran.”

“The Iranian nation has shown that it can forget hasty behavior but we are waiting for practical steps by the United States.”

EUROPEAN UNION FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF JAVIER SOLANA:

“I hope that this will open a new chapter in relations with Iran” and that Iran will pay close attention to Obama’s message.

TRITA PARSI, PRESIDENT OF NATIONAL IRANIAN AMERICAN COUNCIL:

“Obama’s speech will be the topic of conversation at every New Year gathering in Iran today.

“Obama is sending a signal of strategic intent that America’s objective is to find constructive relations between the US and Iran, i.e. ending the destructive enmity that has existed for three decades.

“This is important since tactical collaboration with Iran in Afghanistan is unlikely to be achieved unless America assures the Iranians that the broader long-term objective is to find a positive relationship between the two countries.

“By using the term “Islamic Republic,” Obama is signaling America’s acceptance of Iran’s revolution. This does not mean America will not welcome democratization in Iran, but it does signal that the policy of regime change has been cast aside.

“Obama is focusing on behavioral change, not regime change ... America recognizes that a country and civilization of Iran’s size cannot be isolated and contained inevitably. By pointing out that this role comes with responsibilities, he signals Iran that its rightful role is within reach if its policies change. This is a significant break with Bush Administration policies.

“Obama not only expresses tremendous respect and recognition of the Iranian nation and civilization, he also demonstrates that he recognizes that outreach to the Arab world is different from outreach to Iran. He shows an important understanding of the uniqueness of the Iranian civilization, a point that likely won’t be lost on the Iranians.”

MOHAMMAD HASSAN KHANI, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL

RELATIONS:

Obama’s message is “a positive gesture” which could help pave the way for an opening between the two countries. But there is a need for concrete change in U.S. behavior toward Iran. Obama’s appeal, after he extended (on March 12) economic sanctions against Tehran “is somehow conflicting and making people here confused.”

SEEED LAYLAZ, EDITOR OF BUSINESS DAILY SARMAYEH:

Obama’s statement was “a significant move” toward improved relations, but “it is not enough. They should have taken more brave steps toward better ties with Iran.” An easing of U.S. sanctions could be one such measure.

RELATIONS TEACHER:

“Obama is trying to create this self-perception about dialogue and engagement, but when are you going to go from talking about it to actually doing it? Until that moment comes, everyone has to hold judgment.”

“It’s positive in so far as if you want to solve this problem, this is how you are going to do it. But again, until there is something substantive and concrete, the jury is out.”

OUSAMA SAFA, DIRECTOR, LEBANESE Center FOR POLICY STUDIES:

“This is a good sign, particularly since an extremist government is being formed in Israel, elections are coming in Lebanon and Iran, and there is a general interest in keeping a detente going. Although it is a timid overture, it is a good beginning, particularly for Lebanon. It is a good diplomatic beginning.”

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