What does Iran see when it looks at Europe? Not necessarily a Union at all. It was reported this week by the Iranian press that the Netherlands ambassador in Tehran told Iranian authorities not to worry about the European Parliament's recent vote condemning Iran's handling of human rights.
The official IRNA news agency cited ambassador Jos Douma as telling a senior parliamentarian on April 8 that a resolution passed by the European Parliament "contradicted the Dutch government's positions." Douma reportedly also told the head of the Iranian parliament's foreign affairs committee, Alaeddin Borujerdi, that the human rights vote would have "no effect on the EU's foreign policy."
Iran is engaged in talks with Western powers to reach an agreement on the scope of its controversial nuclear program, and also end its own diplomatic isolation.
The move, if successful, could mean considerable business opportunities in Iran for European firms. But human rights remain a blocking point for some in the West, who note the limits on free speech, imprisoned members of the opposition and widespread use of the death penalty. Tehran dismisses such criticism as "meddling" in its affairs.
The European parliament passed a resolution in late March urging EU negotiators to focus more on rights and go beyond the nuclear dossier, irking Tehran officials considerably.
Borujerdi told Douma that Iran wanted better ties with the West without "interfering measures." The resolution he said, "has had a negative impact on opinion" in Iran, and states must respect different "customs" in their relations. Human rights he added, "are related to every society's culture, religion and morals," and cannot be judged with "one standard."
— Ahmad Shayegan