Canada Confirms Talks to Renew Iran Ties

Canada Confirms Talks to Renew Iran Ties  Canada Confirms Talks to Renew Iran Ties

The Liberal government of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made no secret of its desire to reengage with Iran and now his Foreign Minister Stephane Dion has confirmed that preliminary contact has been made.

In 2012, the Harper administration cut ties with Tehran and expelled Iranian diplomats from Canada.

“Talks have started, yes, at the official level,” Dion said in an interview with CBC News on Friday. There has been speculation the discussions took place in New York, where the two countries have political delegations.

“I will not comment,” the foreign minister said when asked about a possible location. “But the usual way by which countries who want to recreate links proceed, is step by step, at the official level in neutral territory.”

Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations declined to comment when asked whether the talks were happening between the two country’s missions to the UN.

The Harper government also added Iran to its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

“We have no plans to change this,” said Dion, unless Iran becomes a “respectful democracy”.

   Huge Differences

Dion was at pains to clarify that engaging with Tehran did not signify agreement with its policies.

He cited Iran’s human rights record, its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah, as well as policy on Israel as areas where Canada still has “huge problems” with Iran.

Italy has been handling Canada’s interests in the country since ties were cut four years ago, a situation Dion calls “absurd”.

“Thank God we have the help of the Italians but it would be much better if Canada were able to help itself as a country”.

“How can you help this region if you don’t have the ability to be in Iran, to work with the people of good faith there … move this government toward something more acceptable,” Dion said.

“Canada needs to be involved and it’s what our allies are asking us to do.”

In February, the Liberal government announced it was lifting some sanctions against Iran, but that others would stay in place.

Dion would not speculate on the type of diplomatic presence Canada might pursue in Tehran, but added that an embassy was not a likelihood in the near future.

“I would say it’s step by step —and an embassy cannot be a first step.”