Iran, Australia Hold Wide-Ranging Talks

Iran, Australia Hold Wide-Ranging TalksIran, Australia Hold Wide-Ranging Talks

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop on Tuesday in Canberra to discuss bilateral issues ranging from ways to ramp up trade to human rights.

Zarif’s visit to Australia, which is part of an Asia-Pacific tour starting on March 5, is the first by a high-level Iranian official in 10 years.

“Promotion of economic relations, technology sharing and investment and cooperation in the campaign against violence, extremism and organized crime topped the agenda of the meeting,” Zarif said in a joint press conference.

“A new chapter has begun in Iran-Australia ties,” he was quoted as saying by IRNA.

Bishop had said a day earlier that she intended to raise human rights issues in Iran with Zarif and discuss a deal that could see Iranian asylum seekers returned to their homeland.

Zarif said human rights are a politicized issue and improvements in Iran’s rights records are being ignored.

“The human rights issue is being used as a political tool against Iran, which is the only country in the region to have held national elections and where the human rights situation is improving,” he said.

The Iranian foreign minister noted that the two sides share a similar stance on the fight against terrorism, particularly in Yemen and Syria.

On Iranian asylum seekers, the top diplomat said, “All of them can return voluntarily to Iran. The deportation of illegal immigrants is the Australian government’s concern and has nothing to do with Iran. If Australia expels the Iranian immigrants, they can decide whether to move back to Iran.”

Zarif had also earlier commented on the issue, saying Iran will welcome its citizens returning from Australia, but will not force them to come or help pay their expenses.

“If citizens want to come back to Iran, we will accept them with open arms. But we are ready to tell them that nothing awaits them of punishment in Iran, to encourage them to go back to Iran. But we will not impose on them to come back; we will not pressure them to come back to Iran,” he said.

Later on Tuesday, Zarif held discussions with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, mainly focused on regional and international issues and how to boost economic links.