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April 26, 2017

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Gov't not against trade ties with Iran

TAIPEI -- The government is not against commercial activity with Iran that benefits Taiwan's businesspeople, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) officials said in the wake of a new round of international sanctions against the Islamic republic.

The remarks also come after the Israeli representative in Taiwan said that it would be imprudent for Taiwan to deepen its relations with Iran.

Rafael Gamzou, the head of the Israel Cultural and Economic Office in Taipei, said in an interview published Sunday that Israel has no objection to Taiwan fostering a better relationship with the Arab world, but that it would frown on closer Taiwan-Iran ties. He pointed out that many countries are condemning the Iranian regime for its nuclear power program.

MOFA spokesman Henry Chen, however, said the government would not interfere with economic affairs.

"The Republic of China (Taiwan) is not seeking to establish official diplomatic ties with Iran ... Business is business," he said. "We're not against anything as long as it creates commercial profitability for our people."

"Taiwanese businesspeople have been doing business with Iranians for a long time. The bilateral relations were not developed overnight. Businesspeople will do whatever they think is profitable even if they have to do so without help from the government," he added.

While Taiwan does not rule out developing closer trade relations with Iran, setting up a trade office in Taipei would require much more consideration, he said.

The Taiwan External Trade Development Council, a semi-official agency in charge of foreign trade promotion, established an office in Tehran in 1992.

Hoping to curb Tehran's nuclear enrichment activities, the United States is leading a drive to add further sanctions to four sets of sanctions the United Nations has imposed on Iran since 2006. The U.S. and the European Union (EU) have added to those sanctions and are set to impose additional sanctions targeting foreign trade, financial services and companies that do significant business with or invest in Iran's energy sector.

The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) would not comment on another foreign representative's remarks, AIT spokesman Sheila Paskman said. She said the U.S. position was clear following a statement made by U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley on June 10, after the passage of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929.

Crowley also said in a press briefing Monday that "We've already begun to see the impact of these sanctions as companies around the world refuse to do business with Iran rather than risk becoming involved in Iran's nuclear program and other illicit activities."

Harry Tseng, director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Department of North American Affairs, said that U.S. concern over Iran is not a secret, but that Washington also clearly realizes that Taiwan is a sovereign country.

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