European parliament angers Iran with human rights resolution
Iran has reacted angrily to a European parliament resolution calling on diplomats to shine a spotlight on human rights in their negotiations with Tehran as part of a new strategy towards the country.
Iran's foreign ministry summoned the Greek ambassador on Sunday in protest at the resolution, passed by MEPs in a plenary session last week, which condemned the Islamic republic's record for "continued, systematic violation of fundamental rights". Greece currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU.
Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who spoke to members of the Iranian parliament Majlis at the weekend, dismissed it and said the EU parliament was "not in a position, nor has the moral authority" to take such measures against his country.
The new resolution called for the EU "to mainstream human rights in all aspects of its relations with Iran" and asked European diplomats to make sure that "a high-level and inclusive human rights dialogue with Iran should be part of the future policy framework for bilateral EU–Iran" ties. It condemned the restrictions on freedom of speech and urged Tehran,
which along with Iraq accounted for more than two-thirds of the world's executions last year,
to declare a moratorium on the death penalty. The resolution reflects the parliament's view but does not have legislative force.
EU parliamentary delegations planning to visit Iran are also asked to hold meetings with members of the Iranian opposition including political prisoners and civil society activists. Last month, Catherine Ashton particularly infuriated Iranians when she met six women's rights activists in Tehran
during her first visit to Iran as the EU foreign policy chief.
The new resolution has come ahead of a new round of talks between Iran and six world powers on a comprehensive agreement that could potentially settle a decades-long dispute over Tehran's nuclear programme. Negotiations are due to kick off in Vienna on Tuesday.
In his comments to Iranian MPs, Zarif said Tehran could not accept EU's "conditions" and will block any visit to Iran meant to happen under the resolution's criteria. The foreign minister also said the human rights accusations were fabricated by groups close to "Zionists".
Last week's resolution commended President Hassan Rouhani's administration for a series of improvements on human rights, including the release of prominent lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, but called on the Iranian authorities to release all remaining prisoners of conscience including trade unionists, labour activists and those jailed after the disputed presidential election in 2009. The EU also urged Tehran to allow the UN special rapporteur for the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, to visit the country.
On the nuclear issue, the European parliament welcomed the interim agreement, sealed last year in Geneva, and called on all parties "to engage constructively in the negotiating process so that the final comprehensive agreement can be concluded within the agreed time frame".
A number of senior Iranian officials echoed Zarif in dismissing the EU's decision, interpreting it as meddling in Iranian internal affairs.
Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said it was a "pressure tool" and accusations were groundless, according to the state-run Press TV. "These kinds of unjust and groundless judgments are of no value to the Iranian nation," he said.
Ali Larijani, the speaker of Majlis, said the EU resolution was politically motivated.
"As a matter of fact, this resolution is nothing more than a political statement in terms of the method used for compiling the contents to show the European parliament's symbolic position, which has no executive power," he said, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. The foreign ministry spokeswoman, Marzieh Afkham, also called it "unfounded and unacceptable", Fars said.
A group of Iranian MPs said they would retaliate by passing a bill requiring the government to take fingerprints of any EU delegation visiting Tehran. Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani, the Friday's prayer imam, accused the EU of spreading "homosexuality" after the resolution slammed Iran for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.