22nd Feb 2019

Patten defends EU-Iran dialogue

The external relations Commissioner Chris Patten has strongly defended the EU's ongoing dialogue with Iran in the face of objections from MEPs and Iranian opposition parties.

"Dialogue began in December, I am not prepared to say that it has not been a success after one month" said the Commissioner while indicating that he still strongly backs a strategy of constructive engagement with Iran.

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Critics of the tripartite dialogue involving trade, human rights and co-operation on terrorism have objected to the dialogue going on while the number of people executed in Iran continues to rise.

According to the vocal National Council of Resistance of Iran - a group made up largely of members of the People's Mujahideen, a party on the EU's terror list - 31 prisoners were hung or sentenced to death in the first two weeks of January this year.

The group also claims that there were 474 publicly announced executions in 2002 representing a 50% increase from 2001.

Progress must be made

Outlining one reason for this approach, Mr Patten said the intention was to encourage Iran to act more responsibly in regional and international affairs and to "strengthen moderate reformist forces in Iran."

However, aware of the dangers involved in this approach, Mr Patten issued a number of qualifications designed, in part, to reassure the critics but some of which served as a warning to the Iranian government.

"We would not be prepared to make progress and agree in one area without progress and agreement in the other areas," he said, adding "we have to be able to benchmark progress."

He went on to issue a pointed warning to the Iranian government saying "I do not believe dialogue without progress in the long term can be justified." He continued: "reformers have history on their side, I just hope it does not take too long for history to unravel."

Iran - Patten calls for "concrete improvements"

The EU has given its strongest indication to date that Iran's slow progress in improving human rights is jeopardising EU-Iran relations. Speaking in Tehran on Wednesday, External Relations Commissioner, Chris Patten called on Iran's leaders to make "concrete improvements on the ground."

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