After the nuclear deal with Iran there is room to develop EU-Iran relations, but not at the expense of human rights, said Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs in Tuesday’s debate with Iran’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Ways to end violence in Syria and Yemen, and Iran’s relations with Saudi Arabia were also among the topics discussed.
In his first-ever visit to the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr Zarif thanked the EU for its constructive approach to finding a deal on Iran’s nuclear programme, which, he affirmed, was and had always been peaceful.
“We managed to define the problem and objective […] a peaceful nuclear programme“, he said.
MEPs welcomed the deal as opening up the possibility of strengthening EU-Iran trade, economic, cultural and environmental ties.
However, the human rights situation in Iran, the death penalty, public executions and the prosecution of bloggers and journalists are unacceptable and will serve as a litmus test for future relations, MEPs said.
Mr Zarif acknowledged the need to improve Iran’s human rights record and promised to pursue dialogue on this issue with EU “in a spirit of mutual respect and without preaching“.
Asked about ways to end violence in Syria and Yemen, Mr Zarif stressed that the key challenges in the region are “extremism, sectarianism and violence”. He then spelled out a four-point plan to tackle them: ceasefire, national unity government, humanitarian assistance and elections based on new constitution.
As regards relations with Saudi Arabia, he stated that Iran was following a policy of self-restraint.
You can watch the recording of the debate via Video on Demand.