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SPEECH/ 10/4

Catherine Ashton

High Representative / Vice President

Statement on Iran

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED


European Parliament

Strasbourg, 19 January 2010

Honourable Members,

I am glad to have this opportunity to raise the situation in Iran.

The European Union wants normal relations with Iran, and our efforts on the nuclear issue are part of that. In this context, I will continue, in my capacity as High Representative, the role of my predecessor, Javier Solana in the international talks with Iran.

Human Rights

Iran is an important country with a deep history and rich culture, and a remarkably talented population. The films and books coming out of Iran are impressive, the level of education of women is high, there is a capacity for public debate and the young population is vibrant and active. In many ways, Iranian society has the hallmarks and capacities of a free society. The threat to this society has been reflected in the turmoil that followed what many in Iran saw as a fraudulent election last year. That is a matter for the Iranians. Our concern is that international norms and standards on civil and political rights must be respected.

In this respect, I am deeply concerned over the reports of violent suppression of demonstrations and arbitrary detentions in Tehran and other Iranian cities during the recent Ashura commemorations by the end of December last and afterwards. The use of violence against demonstrators seeking to exercise their freedom of expression and rights of assembly is not acceptable. These are universal, human rights that must be respected and those detained for peacefully exercising these rights should be released.

I also note with deep concern that many arrests seem to have targeted human rights defenders and journalists, and that many detained are denied access to legal representation and contact with their families. Iran must live up to its international obligations and treat detained persons in accordance with international human rights standards.

Another recent issue is the detention of another 12 members of the Baha'i religious community. These people must be assured a just, open and fair trial in accordance with international standards.

The EU has spared no opportunity to ask the Iranian government to respect those international obligations they freely and voluntarily adhered to. We issue public statements, and use other diplomatic means. We work through the UN: the General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning the situation only last month. We will make full use of the upcoming Iran review of Iran which will be held at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva in early February.

Nuclear

On the nuclear issue, we regret that Tehran has not followed up on the last meeting between Solana and Jalili on 1 October in Geneva. We all assessed that the meeting was positive. But in effect, Iran has now rejected a draft agreement proposed by the IAEA and has been refusing to pursue talks on the nuclear issue.

The EU and its negotiating partners are all committed to finding a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue, and to that end we continue to implement the dual track approach. We need a serious engagement in meaningful talks from Tehran’s side.

Our objective remains to build confidence that the nuclear programme is exclusively for peaceful purposes. The confidence deficit was further increased by the revelation that Iran has been building another enrichment facility without informing the IAEA in due time. In addition, Iran continues not to co-operate fully with the IAEA and not to respect its international obligations.

It is vital that the EU and the international community stand united behind the negotiating effort, including by supporting that effort through appropriate measures. The widest possible unity is key if we are to achieve our objective.

If Iran sets out on a more constructive course on the nuclear issue and on regional stability in general, it could play an important role in the Middle East and Gulf region, which would reflect its rightful place and proud history.

In conclusion, the challenges posed by Iran weigh very heavy in my portfolio. This is a country which has such enormous potential – and our readiness to engage with Iran constructively has been made over and over. I shall continue to make that case. I sincerely hope that during the time of my mandate, I will return to this house with a more positive picture of relations with Iran.

Thank you


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