Australia to improve trade, cooperation with Iran

Australia to improve trade, cooperation with Iran

While tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia increase, Australia makes a move that some experts say could position it to become a mediator in the conflict between the two Middle Eastern nations.

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While tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia increase, Australia makes a move that some experts say could position it to become a mediator in the conflict between the two Middle Eastern nations.

Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran began to rise after the Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh al-Nimr. Soon after the execution, Iranian protesters attacked Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Tehran. In response, Saudi Arabia cut off all diplomatic ties with the rival country.

Australia condemned both the Saudi execution and the attacks on the Saudi embassy, trying to keep good diplomatic relationships with both countries. At the same time, Australia recently began improving its economic relationship with Iran.

In December, the Austrialian ambassador to Iran said Australia was going to open an economic office in Tehran to strengthen bilateral trade and cooperation between two countries, especially in the mining sector.

Iran is ranked eighth in the world for mineral production, according to the World Mining Congress. Many Australian companies would be interested in investing in mining projects in Iran, according to Gerard Seeber, the Australian trade commissioner to the Middle East.

During the recent meeting with the Australian ambassador, Mehdi Kabasian, the chairman of Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organization, officially invited Australian investors interested in mining projects to participate in the upcoming Iran Mines and Mining Industries Summit (IMIS) 2016.

In the recent years, the volume of trade between Iran and Australia decreased because of sanctions imposed by the United States. Now, it seems that Australia is eager to revive trade relationships with Tehran. At the same time, the rival Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is still the second largest trade partner of Australia in the Middle East, after United Arab Emirates.

Would the improvement of economic ties with Iran have some consequences on trade and diplomatic relationships with Saudi Arabia? Some experts hope that Australia will be able to work with both nations and that the neutral Australia could even play a role of mediator in the current Saudi-Iranian conflict.

IMAGE: Member of Iran Majlis Planning, Budget and Auditing Committee Ahmad Tavakoli (on the right) meets Australian Ambassador to Iran on December 24, 2013.

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