Normalization of Iran-Canada Relations Hindered by Ottawa’s Mistaken Policies

Normalization of Iran-Canada Relations Hindered by Ottawa’s Mistaken Policies Normalization of Iran-Canada Relations Hindered by Ottawa’s Mistaken Policies

Although Iran has shown readiness to restore diplomatic ties with Canada, Ottawa does not seem to be prepared to take an active step toward this goal due to domestic issues, a top Iranian Foreign Ministry official said. 
Canada shut down its embassy in Tehran and expelled Iranian diplomats in September 2012 for no clear reason at the time, but in a later announcement it enumerated a long list of grievances, including Iran's nuclear program, hostility toward Israel, assistance to Syria and alleged support for terrorist groups. 
The attack on the British Embassy in Tehran 10 months earlier, which saw angry protesters storm the diplomatic compound, was also cited as a reason. 
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Bahram Qasemi told reporters on Sunday that Iran does not yet know what lay at the root of Canada's one-sided decision to sever ties. 
"This question has remained unanswered," he was quoted as saying by IRNA.
He also described the parliamentary bill that prohibits the Canadian government from following efforts to reestablish mutual relations as “an unprecedented and unusual aberration”. 
Canadian conservative senators had brought forward a piece of legislation demanding that Ottawa "immediately cease all negotiations or discussions" on restoring diplomatic relations with Iran. 
The Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which had campaigned on resuming Iran-Canada ties, also voted in favor of the opposition motion that marks a sudden reversal in its long-stated goal.

Abortive Effort 

According to Qasemi, after Trudeau's government came to power in 2015, Iran conducted several rounds of negotiations both in Tehran and a third country to reopen consular offices. 
However, the process was disrupted by an Ontario Court of Appeal ruling last year that upheld the seizure of $1.7 billion in private Iranian assets by a group of American plaintiffs whose relatives were killed in terrorist attacks that they alleged were linked to the Iranian government.
The ruling was issued under Canada's Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, passed in 2012, which allows victims of terrorism to sue countries that are listed as supporters of terrorism. 
The decision sparked off widespread criticism by Iranian officials who described it a violation of international law and a move at odds with Ottawa's claim of wanting normal ties with Tehran.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran has lodged protests against the [Justice for Victims of Terrorism] Act on various occasions deeming it a wrong precedent in international law, which violates [the principle of] state immunity," Qasemi said. 
State immunity concerns the protection of a country from being sued in the courts of other countries.
Dennis Horak, a former director of Middle East relations in the Canadian Foreign Ministry, has recently referred to the act as the main obstacle to normalization of Tehran-Ottawa ties.
"Lost in all of the information about the reasons why, was the real reason ... It was the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, frankly. That’s the reason; that still exists," Horak said in a recent meeting of the Canadian International Council in Ottawa. 
"It’s no coincidence that we closed the embassy basically the day after the legislation became effective."  
Qasemi stressed that relations between states is a bilateral issue that requires both sides' willingness. 
"Tehran is prepared for any effort and dialogue that would guarantee better consular services to Iranians residing in Canada … and the Canadian side is aware of this," he said.

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