In English

Iran - A new role for EU?

19.9.2012

Yesterday the EP Iran delegation had a debate on EU-Iran relations with Mr Steven Blockmans of Centre for European Policy Studies and Debuty Ambassador of Iran Mr Hameed Arefi.

Mr Blockmans rightly pointed out that the sanctions imposed on Iran impact the ordinary people of Iran. The sanctions did not have the desired effect on the mindset of Iranian leaders. I fully agree with Blockmans.

Indeed the impact on sanctions have been crucial for the daily life in Iran. This has - maybe as a surprise to many - turned the citizens on the side of the government, not against it. We also already know that the sanctions have significant loopholes. Even before the last sanctions Iran had turned to China and other partners in Asia. Whereas the oil trade with the West has been halted, Iran is still able to sell some of its oil to other countries.

Blockmans went on to propose normalizing the relations with Iran and to offer real incentives for Iran to get out of the vicious circle seen in E3+3 negotiations. EU can be seen as a neutral negotiations partner, compared to USA, Russia or China, to make lead the way out, as EU has maintained day-to-day exchanges with all countries in the region. Incentives that Iran would like to see on the table would be trade and co-operation in energy sector. EU's assistance in economic and energy development and re-establishing the historically strong trade links with Europe would be welcomed by Iran.

Arefi underlined that UN and Iran have a lot of common interests - stability, security and access to energy. According to him Western pressure towards Iran has not worked in the last ten years. He hoped that we would let diplomacy work, also when it comes to the Syrian crisis.

A constructive option in negotiations would be to pursue a wider regional security framework in which Iran would be one piece of a puzzle, but not the main problem. Blockman saw this as one viable option out the dead-end.

Despite the evidence on sanctions negative impact and some scope of diplomatic solutions, new sanctions were on the agenda when the EU foreign ministers met in Cyprus late August. In the light of the debate this line is not expected to lead to a change in Iranian nuclear programme. But, on the other hand, it may be a signal to the Israeli government not to go for the military option.

The delegation is planning a visit to Iran the end of October. This is the first meeting of the European and Iranian parliamentarians after three years. I hope this will widen the scope for EU-Iran dialogue.

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