In recent years the growing polarisation over the nuclear issue, and the isolationism of the Iranian authorities, has made it very difficult to discuss or progress issues relating to human rights, civil society, democratic principles etc.
The new Government in Iran has made some welcome statements on improving the protection of human rights. Ireland and our EU partners would strongly encourage any such moves in Iran, and indeed I have myself discussed with Foreign Minister Zarif the possibility of resuming the EU-Iran Human Rights Dialogue, which was suspended in 2004. My Department has also provided the Iranian Foreign Ministry with information on human rights protection and mechanisms in this country.
We have yet to see significant improvement on the ground in human rights. It may be that the new leadership’s focus on trying to resolve the nuclear issue, and avoid negative domestic backlash, is limiting their ability to act concurrently in this sphere. But human rights is very much an area where positive words must be followed up with actions and changes on the ground, and this is an area we will continue to monitor closely, along with our EU partners.
I would hope also that if agreement can be reached on the nuclear issue, as now seems at least possible, this may help to act as a confidence building measure for better relations in other areas as well.