Italy's Foreign Minister Makes Rare Visit to Tehran

Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino arrives in, will meet Iranian counterpart and President Rouhani.

Contact Editor
Elad Benari,

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani

Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino arrived in Tehran on Saturday for two days of talks, on a rare visit by a senior European official to the Islamic republic.

According to AFP, which cited the official IRNA news agency, Bonino is leading a high-ranking delegation. She is to meet her Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday, the report said.

This is the first time in nearly ten years that an Italian foreign minister is traveling to Iran and follows a trip by Deputy Foreign Minister Lapo Pistelli in August, shortly after Rouhani's inauguration.

The visit comes nearly a month after a landmark agreement between Iran and world powers over Tehran's controversial nuclear program, with Iran rolling back and freezing part of its drive in return for limited sanctions relief.

Italy has supported the diplomatic progress, and Zarif met Bonino in Rome last month, noted AFP.

Bonino's visit also comes after a meeting in Vienna this month between Paolo Scaroni, the head of Italian energy major ENI, and Iran's Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh.

The two reportedly discussed "potential new activities" in Iran subject to the lifting of sanctions -- something that can only happen under a comprehensive nuclear deal yet to be negotiated.

Shortly after taking office, Rouhani began working to smooth relations with the West. His efforts were rewarded when he received a telephone call from U.S. President Barack Obama in September, the first of its kind between an American and Iranian president in more than three decades.

More recently, Britain resumed its ties with Iran, two years after severing diplomatic relations due to a 2011 embassy attack. As well, British Prime Minister David Cameron recently became the first UK prime minister in more than a decade to call an Iranian president when he phoned Rouhani to discuss Iran's nuclear program.