Canada on Path to More Realistic View on Iran

Canada on Path to More Realistic View on IranCanada on Path to More Realistic View on Iran

A parliamentarian believes Canada's renewed willingness to normalize ties with Tehran, demonstrated by the recent dispatch of a diplomatic team to Iran to promote bilateral dialogue, indicates that Ottawa has acquired a better understanding of Iran's status and its peace-seeking foreign policy.

"I'm of the opinion that their eagerness to restore relations results from a greater understanding of Iran's high regional and global status and its principled positions on various developments," Ali Najafi also told ICANA on Monday.

Two weeks ago, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi announced that a delegation from the Canadian Foreign Ministry was visiting Tehran for another round of diplomatic talks on resuming bilateral relations. Qasemi said the discussions were held with a "positive approach" and were focused on "technical and specialized" issues.

The Canadian team's trip to Iran to facilitate the restoration of diplomatic ties took place after an earlier visit in May, the first such visit since the previous Canadian government closed its embassy in Tehran nearly five years ago.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Canadian counterpart Chrystia Freeland also held talks on the sidelines of the 72nd annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September.

Najafi said the settlement of Iran's nuclear dispute with western powers after two years of talks leading to the 2015 nuclear deal and Tehran's positive role in pushing the Syrian conflict toward a peaceful solution, through engaging with Russia and Turkey to initiate Astana peace process, have shown to the world that Iran is a rational player working for global stability.

"The Islamic Republic has proved that it believes in constructive engagement and expansion of friendly relations with others," he said.

Iran and Canada have not had diplomatic relations since Sept. 2012, when former Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, broke off relations, alleging, among other pretexts, "continued threats from Iran to Israel".

Canada's incumbent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has adopted a softer line on Tehran and signaled willingness on several occasions to see Canada's Embassy reopen in Tehran.

Shortly after he assumed office in 2015, Canada lifted a number of sanctions on Iran, in line with the six major powers that reached the nuclear deal with Iran. The change, along with the move to downgrade a warning against travel to Iran, raised hopes of a detente between the two countries.


  Moving Back and Forth

However, a Canadian court's decision in July to allow American people who have won anti-Iran rulings in the US to seize Iran's assets in Canada to enforce their judgments delivered a blow to efforts to normalize Tehran-Ottawa relations.

Disappointed with finding Iranian government assets in the US, the claimants had turned to Canada where Tehran maintained property and bank accounts.

The court ruled to uphold a $1.7-billion judgment issued in the US in favor of American victims of terrorist attacks they blame on Iran.

The ruling drew a strong backlash from Iranian officials who deny any role in the terrorist attacks.

"Issuing verdicts in absentia against a foreign state violates the principle of the equality of governments and is a breach of their immunity under international law," Qasemi responded at the time.

In another anti-Iran move in the same month, the Canadian government opted to continue listing Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism, making it even harder to thaw relations between Ottawa and Tehran.

  Defying Trump?

The discussions in Tehran came shortly after Canada's southern neighbor, the US, announced it will adopt a harder line against the Islamic Republic.

In an Oct. 13 speech, the controversial US President Donald Trump delivered a scathing verbal attack against Iran and laid out an aggressive new strategy that takes a more confrontational approach over Tehran's missile program and alleged "support for terrorism" in the region.

Trump also claimed that Iran was not keeping its end of the bargain regarding the nuclear deal, but stopped short of withdrawing from the agreement.

The two countries now maintain interests sections in the embassies of third countries.


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