Report By: Nina Rai
Tehran, Oct 28, 2012
Even as the US and Israel are bristling with indignation, a four-member German delegation has arrived at the Iranian capital of Tehran late Saturday for a weeklong visit despite pressure from pro-Israeli factions to call off the visit.
The German parliamentary delegation will be holding discussions with senior Iranian lawmakers Mohammad-Javad Larijani, Secretary of Iran's High Council for Human Rights; Mohammad-Mehdi Akhoundzadeh, Deputy Foreign Minister; and Mohammad Nahavandian, Chairman of Iran's Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines (ICCIM).
Bijan Djir-Sarai, of Iranian descent and a member of the German pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), will be leading the delegation. Accompanying him will be Thomas Feist of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), Angelika Graf of the Social Democrats (SPD) and a five-member delegation from the European Parliament.
The German parliamentarians have already left for the historical city of Isfahan in central Iran where they are scheduled to arrive today. The visit by the German delegation comes at a contentious time with Tehran refusing permission to a European Parliamentary (EP) delegation wanting to visit Iran.
The visit was canceled as the select members of the European parliament Friday requested for permission to visit two Iranian nationals imprisoned on charges of violating national security. An irate Tehran deemed the MEP request as interference in its internal matters.
Kazem Jalali, chief of Iranian Majlis Delegation for Relations with EP informed Saturday: “Unfortunately, the European Union created obstacles by its new decisions as well as irrational and unusual requests and caused problems for the visit.”
Meanwhile, the German delegation’s controversial visit has already caused indignation among Israeli and American politicians as well as the German Jewish community, who believe that Tehran will now be leveraging the trip for propaganda reasons.
The parliamentarians in the German-Iranian delegation say they are in Iran to address issues of human rights violations there. However, critics are not buying the argument, claiming that the real intent of the group is to strengthen trade ties between Germany and Iran.
Bijan Djir-Sarai, the leader of the German delegation, told The Associated Press Tuesday: "For us it is important to make our position very clear once again, especially in regard to the striking human rights abuses in Iran." However, not everyone believes that is the real intention of the visit.
Earlier the delegation’s proposed visit to Iran raised the ire of Jewish groups as soon as it was announced, especially the fact that it had agreed to meet the head of the Iranian human-rights council Mohammad Javad Larijani, a person known for denying the Holocaust and even giving a call for Israel's annihilation.
Dieter Graumann, president, Central Council of Jews, in Germany earlier in the week opined that the trip was scheduled despite knowing that Iran “brutally represses and murders opposition.” According to him, the move was “a brazen piece of being on the wrong political and moral way, that of all things to visit a regime that continues to build its nuclear program and threatens the destruction of Israel and continues to deny the Holocaust,” wrote the Jerusalem Post.
One alleged expert on German-Iran relations, Wahied Wahdat-Hagh, according to the Post, criticized that the Germans, who will also be meeting up with the German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce in Iran, were making statements on human rights only as a cover for promoting trade links between the two nations.
Wahdat-Hagh told the Post: "While the German-Iranian FDP politician speaks about human rights intentions, there are reports of Iran's state news agency that clearly articulate economic objectives.”
Meanwhile this surprising diplomatic move, which the European Parliament described as designed to “build bridges,” has caused ripples in the US, though it has received little coverage in the German press. Two US Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and(D-Md.) earlier in the month even sent a letter to Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament.
The American senators in the letter made a plea to reconsider the Iranian trip “given Iran’s continued human-rights offenses and failure to suspend its nuclear program.” Cardin wrote that “sending a delegation to Iran sends the wrong message.” He later told Jerusalem Post: "The decision to go ahead is unfortunate."
The German parliamentary delegation’s visit to Iran should have been at a more opportune time, sometime in the future. This clearly is not the appropriate time, especially when things are so dicey in the Middle East region, particularly with tension brimming between Iran and Israel, with stringent sanctions applied on the former for curbing its nuclear ambitions.
Especially difficult to accept is the statements from the delegation that its agenda is to address issues of human rights violations in Iran. The very fact that Tehran only this Friday denied permission to the European Parliamentary (EP) delegation to visit Iranian prison to meet two imprisoned Iranian nationals is telling indeed.
The EP members were not given permission to reportedly visit jailed lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and the banned film director Jafar Panahi, which clearly indicates that the Islamic Republic is in no mood to entertain anyone from outside let alone a delegation to check out on their human rights records, which they consider as their internal matter.
So no matter whatever the official statements coming out of the German delegation, the visit clearly looks to be to promote economic and trading ties between the two nations. But doing so, particularly at this sensitive juncture in diplomatic relations, is clearly disastrous.
The world community led by US is doing all it can to send out a loud, combined signal to Tehran, pressurizing it to come to the negotiating table to sort out the issue of compiling dangerous nuclear arsenal. During such a sticky time, this formal visit by a parliamentary delegation, no matter how well-intentioned will prove to be counterproductive and will also undermine the combined efforts of the major world powers to sort out the Iran-Israel imbroglio.
Sources: Press TV/The Local De/Jerusalem Post/Algemeiner.
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