Re-opening EU-Iran relations essential to ending wars in Syria and Iraq, new report by Labour MEP warns

MEPs will vote today for a report on the EU’s Iran strategy that says the Iran nuclear agreement has opened up the possibility of a diplomatic breakthrough, essential to finding a solution to the bloodshed in Syria and Iraq.

The report endorses a step-by-step reopening of political, economic and human rights relations between Europe and Iran, and says the European Union should play an enhanced diplomatic role to de-escalate tensions between Tehran and Riyadh, and promote the idea of a new regional security structure for the Middle East based on the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) model in Europe.

Other recommendations in the report include the opening of an EU Embassy in Iran; a confidence-building initiative on maritime security in the Persian Gulf; establishing a new partnership and cooperation agreement and bilateral investment treaty between the EU and Iran; a restoration of inter-parliamentary dialogue with the Iranian Majlis (the Iranian Parliament) and an enhanced role for Euronews Farsi.

Richard Howitt MEP, author of the EU-Iran strategy report and Socialists and Democrats Group spokesperson on foreign affairs, says:

“The Iran nuclear agreement was a major achievement for European and international diplomacy. It is right that Europe upholds our own obligations under the agreement and that the same opposition we saw in the US Congress is faced down in Europe too.

“Critics of the report should be honest that their opposition is in reality to the agreement itself, and reflect lobbying interests who oppose the agreement altogether. And I will be honest with them by saying the true consequences of a breakdown in the agreement are a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, a victory for hardliners over reformists, impoverishment and a loss of hope for ordinary Iranian people, while fatally undermining diplomatic efforts to overcome the suffering, death and destruction in Syria and Yemen.

“Indeed upholding the agreement is essential to show that diplomacy and negotiated agreement can succeed in conflict-resolution for our troubled world.”

Answering critics of his report on human rights grounds, Mr Howitt adds:

“My report makes clear that the European Union is steadfastly against the death penalty in all cases. But by focusing on forces already within Iranian society to end executions of children and for drugs offences, this could cut the number by 80 per cent and I dearly hope it can succeed.

“There are no less than 34 references to human rights in my report and the truth is that there is no number high enough which could satisfy the critics. Those who say they support human rights but would jeopardise our leverage to influence them should examine their own consciences.”

The report supports sovereignty and non-interference for all countries of the Middle East, specifically supports respect for the peace and security of Israel and for Palestinians, an end to financial support for the military wing of Hezbollah and respect for Jewish people and other religious minorities in Iran itself.

Suggesting that critics who wanted more one-sided criticism in the report reflected lobbying interests, Richard Howitt MEP added:

“This is a balanced report which will enable Europe to maintain trust and confidence to play what I hope will be an enhanced diplomatic role to de-escalate tensions in the region.

“Some critics who say they are against proxy wars are in reality acting as proxies themselves. They should not do so.

“I remember sitting in a Middle East Embassy of one EU member state being told that bombing of Iran was more likely than not. The Iranian nuclear agreement has averted another Middle East war and it is right that the European Parliament has to act responsibly to uphold it.”