Heir to British throne praises Islamic Republic’s people as ‘remarkable’ as relations have deteriorated; says he prays for peace between Israel and the Palestinians
Britain’s Prince Charles wants to visit Iran, the heir to the throne said in an interview published Sunday, in which he also described himself as a “peacemaker” when speaking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Yes, obviously I would like to [go to Iran],” Charles told The Sunday Timeslast week on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, before he flew to Israel to take part in a major gathering of world leaders in Jerusalem to commemorate victims of the Holocaust. He also visited the Palestinian territories and said in Bethlehem Friday that it “breaks my heart” to witness Palestinian suffering.
“I know that Iran has been such an important part of the world for so many centuries and has contributed so much to human knowledge, culture, poetry, art,” the prince added in his newspaper intervieew. “I mean, really remarkable people. And I have always been fascinated by Islamic culture and architecture and craftsmanship for a long time.”
Relations between Tehran and London have historically been poor, with the Islamic Republic equating Britain with the US in representing “imperialism” and “arrogance.”
They deteriorated further earlier this month after Tehran arrested Britain’s ambassador, Rob Macaire, who participated in a vigil for victims of an incident in which Iranian missiles shot down a passenger plane, which later became an anti-regime protest.
Iran’s judiciary subsequently described Macaire as a “persona non grata,” with Tehran angrily denouncing him. Members of the Basij militia loyal to the regime burned cut-out figures of Macaire and protesters chanted “death to Britain.” Macaire subsequently left the country in unclear circumstances on January 15 for what was described as a “brief trip” that was previously planned, according to the British Foreign Office. It is unclear if he has returned to Tehran.
Also harming the ties is the fate of British-Iranian citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been held by the Islamic Republic since 2016 on spying charges.
In his interview, Prince Charles also expressed hope for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
“I have spent much of my life trying to bring people together,” he said. Asked if he considered himself a peacemaker, he replied: “I try. I’d rather be a peacemaker.”
“I do think the most important thing [in the region] is a just and lasting peace,” he was quoted as saying. “Yes, I do pray. I pray very hard all the time.”
The Times said he ended that comment with the Arabic word “inshallah” (God willing).
Charles on Friday visited the West Bank city of Bethlehem, saying that he was heartbroken to witness the “suffering” and “hardship” endured by the Palestinians, in what was described by Britain’s Sky News TV as constituting “the biggest show of support that a member of the Royal family ever has [expressed] for the Palestinians.”
Visiting the town revered by Christians as the birthplace of Jesus, Charles said: “It breaks my heart therefore that we should continue to see so much suffering and division. No one arriving in Bethlehem today could miss the signs of continued hardship, and the situation you face.”
Later, after he held talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the official PA news agency WAFA said Abbas told the prince he was grateful to the UK “for accepting the two-state solution and rejecting the US-led ‘deal of the century’.”
US President Donald Trump said Thursday he would unveil his Israeli-Palestinian peace plan within days. The PA has preemptively rejected it. The UK has not taken an official position on it.
Sky News quoted officials representing the prince as saying he was trying to remain “neutral” in the course of his trip — his first official visit to Israel and the West Bank.
On Thursday, the prince met Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, toured the Israel Museum including the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, met Holocaust survivors, and addressed the World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem.
On Friday, Charles also visited the tomb of his grandmother, who sheltered Jews during the Holocaust and is interred at the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Mary Magdalene, just outside Jerusalem’s Old City.