Ottawa Policy Shift Key to Revival of Iran-Canada Ties

Ottawa Policy Shift Key to Revival of Iran-Canada TiesOttawa Policy Shift Key to Revival of Iran-Canada Ties

A deputy foreign minister said a successful restoration of Tehran-Ottawa diplomatic ties hinges on a tangible shift in the Canadian government's policy on Iran to effectively depart from the hostile stance of its predecessor.

Deputy Foreign Minister for European and American Affairs Majid Takht-Ravanchi said Canada's current administration needs to distance itself from the hostile position of the former administration.

"[This] should be witnessed both in Canada's behavior and in its rules related to Iran," he said in an interview with ISNA published on Tuesday.

"If they demonstrate in practice that they have distanced themselves from the previous government's policy, we will be ready to help restore relations. But as mentioned before, we have not reached that point yet."

In September 2012, the administration of former Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, severed diplomatic contacts with the Islamic Republic, citing, among other pretexts, what it called "continued threats from Iran to Israel".

Canada shut its embassy in Tehran and ordered Iranian diplomats to leave the North American country within five days.

Italian Embassy has been handling Canada's interests in Iran since then.

However, current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came to office in the 2015 election on a promise of change, including changes in foreign policy.

He has expressed willingness on several occasions to see Canada's Embassy reopen in Tehran and in February, his liberal government announced it was lifting some sanctions against Iran.

"I think Canada is sending the right signal" by deciding to partially remove the sanctions, Trudeau said in March, adding that Canada needs to engage with nations that it believes pose a security challenge to the world.

"You need to have opportunities to put pressure, to tell them where they're going wrong, to tell them how to start going right ... You don't get to do that by crossing your arms and shouting indiscriminately and hoping they hear," he said.

In April, Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion acknowledged that the break in relations "had no positive consequences for anyone: not for Canadians, not for the people of Iran, not for Israel, and not for global security".

"Canada's Embassy in Iran has been closed for over three years. With which results? Is it right to need to count on Italy to protect our interests in this country?" Dion asked.

"Today, Canada must return to Iran to play a useful role in that region of the world … We are being asked by all sides to reengage and we are doing so."

Later on June 10, he confirmed to CBC News that official-level talks with Iranians aimed at normalizing relations had started.

Takht-Ravanchi said the two sides' diplomats have met twice so far to discuss the issue.

  Upgrading UK Ties Premature

Tehran has also been in negotiations with Britain to reestablish full diplomatic ties that were cut after protesters angered by London's decision to intensify sanctions on the Islamic Republic stormed its embassy and pulled down its flag in 2011.

Following the incident, Britain withdrew its diplomatic staff from Tehran and expelled Iran's mission.

After the government of President Hassan Rouhani took office in 2013, the two sides launched diplomatic efforts to mend ties.

The British Embassy in Tehran reopened last August in a ceremony attended by then foreign secretary, Philip Hammond. It was the first visit by a British foreign secretary to Iran since 2003.

Simultaneously, Iran's Embassy in London reopened, but relations have remained limited to the level of charge d'affaires.

Takht-Ravanchi said it was premature to talk of promoting ties to the ambassador level, adding, "When favorable conditions are provided for the promotion of relations to the level of ambassadors, we will pursue the issue in line with our domestic regulations … and the Majlis decisions."

European countries aim to establish a foothold in Iran's untapped, profitable market after it shed crippling economic sanctions when the July 2015 nuclear deal with major powers took effect in January.

Three months later, EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, led a team of seven European commissioners to Iran on a one-day visit.

It produced agreements of cooperation on everything from banking to energy to transport.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Mogherini issued a joint statement during the visit, announcing that the bloc would pursue opening a full diplomatic mission in Tehran.

The two sides have exchanged delegations and held several meetings since.

In a statement on the occasion of the one-year anniversary of the nuclear accord, the European Union reiterated its interest in promoting bilateral cooperation.

Takht-Ravanchi said the bloc has tasked two diplomats in the Dutch Embassy with pursuing the establishment of its office in Tehran.

The next round of Tehran-Brussels consultations is "highly likely" to be held in September or October, he added.