Canada keeping 'eyes open' while lifting some sanctions against Iran: Dion
Published Friday, February 5, 2016 12:23PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, February 6, 2016 12:02AM EST
The Liberal government has lifted some of its economic sanctions against Iran, including the ban on imports, exports and financial services, leading to criticism from the opposition Conservatives.
Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion said Friday in Ottawa that Canada will “engage with Iran step-by-step, (with) open eyes, because we still have a lot of concerns about the role of Iran in the region.”
Dion added that Canada is open to restoring diplomatic relations with Iran, which have been non-existent since the Canadian embassy in Tehran was closed in 2012.
The foreign affairs minister said Canada was wrong to cut ties with Iran.
"We should have been part of it, to engage Iran, with sanctions, but with diplomacy at the same time," he said.
Dion stressed that Canada still has many concerns, particularly Iran’s human rights abuses and its relations with Israel.
Foreign Affairs Critic Tony Clement told reporters in Halifax that the Conservatives also remain skeptical of Iran’s intentions, adding that his party prefers to judge Iran “by its actions, not by its words.”
Clement said Iran continues to be listed by Canada as a state sponsor of terrorism because of support for groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, “who are taking innocent lives.”
Clement also said Iran continues to violate UN resolutions on ballistic missiles, which suggests to him that the country “does not have the best of nuclear intentions.”
“The Liberal government is looking at this strictly from a commercial point of view,” Clement added. “We are sending a signal to Iran that they can continue their violent behaviour.”
Clement also said that restoring diplomatic relations and re-opening an embassy is “absolutely the wrong thing to do,” considering that other embassies “continue to be attacked and firebombed by mobs.” He said Canada “cannot ensure the safety of diplomatic personnel.”
Canada’s then-Conservative government closed the embassy in Tehran in 2012, less than a year after the U.K. closed its embassy there in response to a storming by demonstrators opposed to sanctions.
The U.K. reopened its embassy last August after a deal was reached last month that aims to shut down Iran’s nuclear program.
Last month, an angry mob stormed the Saudi Arabian embassy in Tehran in response to the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.
Dion's announcement comes weeks after Canada's allies, the United States and European Union, lifted many of their economic sanctions against Iran, under the UN-backed nuclear deal.
Shortly after those sanctions were lifted, Iran announced plans to buy 114 planes from France-based Airbus, prompting questions about whether Canada’s Bombardier was at a disadvantage.