Tehran: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinijad made an unscheduled stopover at a felicitation function for the Asia to Gaza caravan in Tehran University. Thousands of students had lined the streets of the University campus to greet the participants of the first solidarity caravan from Asia to Gaza. The Presidential visit was completely unexpected and took the participants and the University authorities completely by surprise.
Speaking at the event, President Ahmedinijad, made a departure from the official Iranian line on the issue and said that the Palestinian issue was “no longer an issue between the Arabs and the Israelis, nor was it an issue between the muslims and the jews, but it was now a humanatarian issue that the world can no longer ignore”. The President echoed the message of the caravan of the Palestinian issue being a humanitarian issue. President Ahmedinijad spent over an hour at the event and mingled with the caravan participants before and after his speech.
Earlier during the event, speaking on behalf of the Asia to Gaza caravan, Ashim Roy, the General Secretary of the National Trade Union Initiative from India, thanked the President for making an unscheduled stop-over and said that this would send out a strong political message in favor of the first Asian solidarity caravan.
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The Presidential visit to the caravan also assumes significance given the recent developments in Indo-Iranian ties. Earlier in the year, India had summoned the Iranian envoy after the remarks of Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Kashmir. India had subsequently abstained from voting against the UN resolution on the human rights mooted by Canada. India had on previous occasions always voted against the resolution.
The Asia to Gaza caravan which was flagged off from New Delhi has 60 Indian participants from 15 states. The caravan is a secular, non-sectarian effort by trade unions, workers parties and a wide-range of civil society organizations from across Asia. Besides India, participants from Japan, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia and other Asian countries have already joined the caravan. The Indian presence is the largest and constitutes more than two-thirds of the entire caravan.