February 20, 2014, Cairo –Brazil’s top diplomat at the United Nations says that the recent thaw in relations between the United States and Iran could be a “game changer” in the Middle East. Ambassador Antonio Patriota says in an interview with the Cairo Review of Global Affairs that “adequate communication” between Washington and Tehran could help avoid a “worst-case scenario” in the three-year-old conflict between the Syrian regime and armed opponents.
“I think there has been a readiness to open serious channels of communication,” Patriota said in the interview, conducted in New York in December. “This is something that has not been going on since the 1970s. So it is a major diplomatic event, and we should not underestimate its importance. I think it has the potential for being a real game changer in the Middle East, in a positive sense. In a sense of limiting violence, limiting tensions, introducing more rationality in a region where, unfortunately, there has been considerable irrational behavior.”
Patriota said that the improved relations could ease the crisis in Syria: “I think one has to be pragmatic but also not be deterred by the challenges, because there are also positive elements on the horizon.”
Patriota said the U.S.-Iran thaw could also have an impact on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations: “The mere fact that the U.S. is speaking to Iran today, and that an agreement is being reached on the nuclear file—I think that takes away from the Israeli authorities the kind of argument that they have been using that the real existential threat to Israel is the Iranian nuclear file.” Patriota said that in a meeting in 2012 with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he told the Israeli leader: “To our mind the real threat to Israel was not Iran. It was the absence of an agreement with the Palestinians.”
Commenting on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s demands that the United States apologize for targeting Brazilian government officials and corporations in its global network of electronic espionage—and provide an explanation and assurance that the targeting would end—Patriota said: “The response has been less than satisfactory.”
He said Brazil is seeking assurances that the “rights of Brazilian individuals will be respected, and the Brazilian leadership will not be spied on, and that Brazil will not be the object of wholesale spying that is entirely unjustified and disassociated from common objectives.”
Patriota’s comments appear in the Winter 2014 edition of the Cairo Review, which features “Special Report: Viva Brasil!.” The report also contains essays on Brazil’s transition from dictatorship to democracy and the country’s preparations for hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.
To read the full interview with Antonio Patriota and “Special Report: Viva Brasil!” in the Winter 2014 edition of the Cairo Review, go to www.thecairoreview.com .
The Cairo Review of Global Affairs is the quarterly journal of AUC’s School of Global Affairs and Public Policy (GAPP). The journal is also available online at www.thecairoreview.com.
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