Vienna, 27 October 2008 Press release

Plassnik meets Khatami: "Dialogue must build on strong confidence"

Foreign Minister meets Iranian ex-president Khatami

Vienna, 27 October 2008 - "A serious dialogue between cultures and religions is decisive for addressing differences of opinion and elaborating common perspectives. Diversity and pluralism do not pose a danger to our societies but constitute sources of strength for development, progress and peace. To achieve this goal we must not isolate ourselves from one another but pro-actively seek dialogue with each other", emphasised Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik following her meeting with former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami. In this context Plassnik paid tribute to Khatami´s role as "a teacher and mediator in the dialogue between our cultures and religions".

"Khatami makes it clear that the Iranian society is not monolithic. He provides a multi-faceted and differentiated picture of the Iranian society and Muslim culture with which we have to deal", stated Plassnik, referring to the activities of the Geneva Foundation for Dialogue among Civilizations headed by Khatami, which addresses key questions of dialogue. In this area there could be possibilities for further cooperation with Iran and Khatami’s foundation, relating to questions such as the promotion of women’s participation in public life and dealing with cultural and religious diversity in the age of globalisation.

"As for the dialogue between cultures and religions, Austria can look back on a long tradition and acknowledged expertise as a meeting place. The conference on ‘Europe and the Arab World - Connecting Partners in Dialogue’, which was planned by us together with the League of Arab States and which is scheduled to take place from 17 to 19 December in Vienna, will make this evident once again. The focus will be on strengthening women’s role in society, the participation of young people in society and politics, the development of a consolidated civil society and dealing with pluralism and diversity", stated Plassnik.

"Dialogue must be based on trust. Long-term, comprehensive dialogue with Iran presupposes a strong basis of confidence on both sides", emphasised the Foreign Minister. "This highlights the still unresolved question of Iran’s nuclear programmes. In this field Iran has clearly failed to send out signs of confidence. We continue to support the idea of a diplomatic solution, but Tehran must grasp the outstretched hand, accept the offer to conduct talks in a constructive manner, and deal with it in practical terms. Playing for time will not bring us closer to a solution", concluded Plassnik.

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