President. The next item is the Council and Commission statements on the confrontation between Iran and the international community.
Hans Winkler, President-in-Office of the Council. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, in this Council statement on the confrontation between Iran and the international community, I should like to comment on the following issues: firstly, the nuclear issue, secondly, relations between the EU and Iran and, thirdly, the recent violence in Tehran.
The resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue is a key concern for the international community, which has serious doubts about the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme. Over recent years, the EU has spared no effort to find a solution by negotiation and to urge Iran to adopt confidence-building measures with regard to its nuclear programme. Iran has been moving in the wrong direction recently by taking unilateral action, most recently resuming uranium-enrichment activities at Natanz and suspending application of the IAEA Additional Protocol.
The adoption by the IAEA Board of Governors of its resolution of 4 February bringing the matter to the attention of the Security Council of the United Nations gave a clear signal to Iran. The large majority by which the resolution was adopted demonstrates that Europe’s deep concern about Iran’s nuclear programme is shared by the international community as a whole.
The EU is by no means calling into question Iran’s right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The cause of this conflict lies in Iran’s failure to take sufficient action to date to build the necessary confidence in the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme. On the contrary, over the last 18 years, Iran has failed to declare a substantial part of its very extensive nuclear programme to the IAEA, and is still refusing to provide it with important information concerning, in particular, the extent of development of its uranium-enrichment technology and the field of ‘weaponisation’ – that is, the militarisation of its nuclear programme.
The EU’s objective is still to achieve a solution to the matter by negotiation. Yet this requires that Iran show sufficient willingness to be cooperative and open, in particular towards the IAEA, and to take urgently needed confidence-building measures such as suspending sensitive nuclear activities. The Russian proposal to build a Russian-Iranian uranium-enrichment facility on Russian soil as an alternative to enrichment in Iran is an important contribution and has the full support of the EU.
Let me reiterate quite clearly that the EU remains committed to a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue, in which the IAEA must play a key role. Involving the Security Council is not tantamount to diminishing the role of the IAEA, but rather is intended to strengthen the IAEA’s authority and make it possible to implement the measures required by the resolutions of its Board of Governors.
On the subject of relations between the EU and Iran, the EU still regards the human-rights situation in Iran with great concern. The situation is worsening, and the Iranian authorities are not taking any tangible action to reform legislation or official practices. Despite repeated requests by the EU, Iran has failed to make any further commitment to resuming the stalled human-rights dialogue. The EU will continue to voice its human-rights concerns, both directly to the Iranian Government and in public statements and international forums.
The statements made by the Iranian President on Israel have been unambiguously and strongly condemned by the EU and the international community as a whole. Iran’s position on the Middle East gives grounds for grave concern. It still supports Palestinian groups that the EU classifies as terrorist organisations. We note with concern that the Iranian President recently met some of the leaders of such groups in Syria, and we call on Iran to end such contacts. In addition, we call for it to join the international consensus on the necessity of a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict.
The repeated attempts by the Iranian President to deny the crimes of the Holocaust, and his calls for the state of Israel to be ‘wiped off the map’, are to be firmly rejected. Statements such as this are completely unacceptable and, furthermore, are totally at odds with the efforts of the numerous political and religious leaders who are specifically working on all sides to promote a dialogue between the cultures that is characterised by mutual respect, particularly following the events of recent days.
The EU’s relations with Iran will depend on progress made on all of the issues of concern: the nuclear issue and other concerns in connection with weapons of mass destruction, human rights, the fight against terrorism and the country’s position on the Middle East. The options for action by the EU will be kept under close review and weighed up in the light of Iran’s declarations and actions.
On the subject of the violence: as has been clearly underlined in the debate in this House, the attacks on bodies of the European Union are in no way justifiable, and are completely unacceptable. The EU Presidency has condemned these attacks and called on Iran to meet its obligations with regard to the protection laid down in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961. In accordance with these obligations, the Presidency has also reminded Iran that responsibility under international law for ensuring compliance with these obligations lies with the state.
IN THE CHAIR: MR FRIEDRICH Vice-President
Franco Frattini, Vice-President of the Commission. Mr President, it is clear that Iran needs to take visible and credible steps back in order to regain the confidence of the international community. For the past few months the nuclear file has been at the centre of EU concerns with Iran, and rightly so. The region does not need further tension and prospects of nuclear escalation. Despite the persistent efforts for dialogue of the so-called EU-3 and of other international partners, Iran has not engaged in a convincing way. That is why, as a result of the vote of the International Atomic Energy Agency Board in Vienna on 4 February, Iran’s nuclear dossier is now to be reported to the United Nations Security Council.
The Iranian reaction was the decision to step up its enrichment programme and to cease implementing the additional protocol. That is unacceptable news, although Iran expected to continue cooperating with the IAEA on the basis of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
A substantial majority of the international community, including Russia and China, now stand firmly behind the reporting of Iran to the Security Council, agreeing that Iran needs to return to a suspension of its enrichment activities. There must be no mistake in Tehran about the resolve of the international community. At the same time the door still remains open for a negotiated settlement through diplomatic efforts, provided that Iran takes the necessary steps.
Iran’s tactic of trying to divide the international community proved unsuccessful on this occasion, as it did last autumn. The Russian proposal to enrich uranium outside of Iran is still on the table and needs to be explored fully. If Iran returns to a suspension of its enrichment activities and accepts the Russian proposal, the Security Council track may not prove necessary. The prospects depend very much on the will of Tehran to compromise and engage with the international community, and to do so swiftly.
We shall not speculate on further steps, but if the situation continues to deteriorate, we will need to consider options for further action through the United Nations. The United Nations Security Council will revert to the issue in the light of Mr El Baradei’s report and the next meeting of the IAEA Board starting on 6 March. Conversely, if things evolve in the right direction, more could be done through Community actions. If and when the situation calls for that, we must be able to re-engage Iran through a series of EU and Community instruments. We are ready to engage constructively, and Iran knows that.
The nuclear issue is not a dispute between Iran and Europe or between Iran and the United States, but between Iran and the larger international community. Nor is it a dispute about Iran’s right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It is about Iran’s failure to build the necessary confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme. Indeed, Iran has the right to develop research, production and the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. For that, without discrimination, we need objective guarantees on the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.
I should like to say a few words about President Ahmadinejad’s statements on issues that affect regional stability and international relations. His unacceptable remarks regarding Israel and the Holocaust sparked global outrage. We feel that those statements are a profound offence to all of us. It is also totally unacceptable – as the Presidency has just said – that Iran continues to support terrorist organisations in the Middle East.
With regard to human rights, you may recall that on 12 December the General Affairs and External Relations Council found the situation grave enough to adopt conclusions on the state of EU-Iran human rights dialogue. Stating what is for me a fundamental requirement vis-à-vis Iran, the European Union reaffirmed that greater respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Iran is essential if there is to be progress in EU-Iran relations.
I should like to emphasise some points of major concern. There have been an increasing number of public executions and death sentences – juvenile executions in particular. Iran executed more child offenders in 2005 than in any recent year. There are restrictions on freedom of expression, with widespread censorship of the internet and the press – even the former speaker of parliament and presidential candidate, Mr Karroubi, could not get authorisation to broadcast his new television channel from Dubai. On the plight of human rights defenders, we are very much concerned about the fate of prisoners of conscience, such as Mr Akbar Ganji and his lawyer Mr Abdolfattah Soltani. The list of human rights concerns in Iran remains worryingly long.
The Commission looks forward to a continued exchange with Parliament regarding the matter of Iran. The situation is critical, but the long-term objective continues to be, despite everything, that deeper and broader relations should be established with a country that is an important regional and international player.
Michael Gahler, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, I should like to declare our full support for the policy of the international community on Iran, as revealed in the resolution of the IAEA Board of Governors of 4 February, the position of the EU General Affairs Council of 30 January, and the statement issued by the EU-3 together with the USA, Russia and China in London.
In the government of my home country, too, Chancellor Merkel and Minister for Foreign Affairs Steinmeier are together resolutely following this course. It must be made clear to Iran’s leaders that they cannot create divisions within the international community, nor – naturally – within the individual bodies of the EU. Parliament’s resolution today will make that clear.
We recognise the fundamental right of all parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to use nuclear energy for peaceful, civil purposes; but Iran has crossed so many red lines that confidence in the regime’s honourable intentions has faded. Neither its reduced cooperation with the IAEA, its President’s threat that Iran would leave the Non-Proliferation Treaty, its postponement of the talks with Russia that had been scheduled for this Thursday nor, in particular, its resumption of uranium enrichment, are conducive to building confidence and defusing the situation.
This makes it all the more important to continue to present a resolute, united front to Iran. Anything that could now be conducive to giving Tehran the impression of division or compliance is unhelpful. Those who believe that our unconditional desire for peace alone will induce our opposite numbers to change course and see the light are doing our natural yearning for peace a disservice. Particularly when our counterparts are preaching hatred and hostility, and deliberately acting contrary to the expectations of the international community, we should not disclose to the other side everything that we might do as a consequence of their actions.
I do not believe that the scope for diplomatic efforts has yet been exhausted. We are offering constructive cooperation. We are calling on Iran to resume cooperation with the IAEA before the issue is discussed in the Security Council. We also support Russia’s offer of uranium enrichment for civil purposes outside Iran. We cannot help wondering why Iran wants its own enrichment facilities. The country does not operate a single …
(The President cut off the speaker)
Martin Schulz, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, I should have been surprised if it did not. However, I should also like to ask the House to reflect on what is more important: having time for a proper debate, or Members of this House complaining when a vote is taken. I should have liked to hear Mr Gahler out, as what he was saying was most fascinating. Indeed, the question he raised is one of the ones that preoccupies us most at the present time.
How do we deal with a regime that is quite blatantly pushing all its boundaries? How do we respond to that as an international community? In my speech I shall try to add some further questions from the point of view of my group. It is not necessary to comment in this House on the remarks made by the Iranian President. A Head of State who denies the Holocaust, and who calls into question Israel’s right to exist, is not a fitting dialogue partner for us.
All the values that President Ahmadinejad stands for are the opposite of those we stand for, and I should welcome a debate on values with these people. We have already had a debate on values this morning; and that was good – it was a serious, considered debate. We should hold a calm, self-confident debate, and see whether there are others in the region besides President Ahmadinejad with whom we can hold dialogue. We should reflect on options open to us before we philosophise about options closing.
Are there not sufficient moderate countries in the region who are open to dialogue and with whom we can cooperate, who may not share our values one-to-one, but to whose interests it is also entirely detrimental to have Iran become a leading nuclear power in the region? Yes, there are, and, in my view, they are suitable dialogue partners for the EU. In this connection, of course, the conflict over the caricatures not only comes at the worst possible time, but is even counterproductive in the extreme, for these are the very countries with whom we need a relationship of mutual respect. Solving this caricature conflict is also central to solving the problems of the region as a whole, therefore.
For this reason, I would advise against equating ‘Iran’ and ‘Islam’. The actions of one aggressive Head of State of one country do not in any way reflect the views of the vast majority of peace-loving Muslims around the world, with whom we have to cooperate.
I think it is right that all enrichment activities – that is, those by all countries – should be under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency, as proposed by the IAEA itself. We should support this proposal. I also think, incidentally, that it is perfectly justifiable to refresh memories and say that the debate on nuclear disarmament should not be limited to this region: it needs to be universal. In this connection, allow me to point out that treating countries who already have nuclear weapons differently from those who are on the way to having them, and carrying out pre-emptive strikes against countries who did not have any weapons of mass destruction, only encourages regimes to procure nuclear weapons as quickly and illegally as possible, because those who own them will not be attacked. This is a logic that also needs to be discussed, one that was triggered by a pre-emptive strike carried out in the same region in the past, which was utterly wrong and which we vehemently opposed.
I believe that the logic behind this was extremely dangerous, and that is why we have to abandon this strategy of goal-based thinking, as it leads to the militarisation of thought. We must reinforce our diplomatic options step by step. It was an enormous accomplishment on the part of the EU-3 to bring China and Russia together and thus give Iran a clear signal that the international community will not allow itself to be divided. Let us talk about diplomatic successes instead of philosophising about military options. The international community should do everything in its power to make it clear to Iran that failure to return to the negotiating table by 6 March will automatically trigger a referral to the Security Council. Subsequent action should then be decided there, however, rather than by just any central government.
Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (NL) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, after two and a half years of intensive research and inspections, the International Atomic Agency has been unable to confirm the peaceful character of the Iranian nuclear programme, and basic questions remain unanswered.
Iran’s recent decisions to resume the uranium enrichment activities and to suspend all voluntary cooperation with the Agency are particularly worrying, not least in the light of the Iranian President’s statements denying Israel’s right to exist and of the general tightening of rules that has been noted in Iran.
Now that the issue has been passed on to the Security Council, things are gaining momentum, even though it has been decided to wait for the next report which Mr El Baradei will be submitting on 6 March.
The stakes are extraordinarily high. The non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and of weapons of mass destruction is in the balance. The stability of the entire region is at risk, as is the effectiveness of the International Atomic Agency itself. It is very rare that I put things in such strong terms, but I am warning you that this issue is placing the whole international rule of law under pressure.
Even if the conference reviewing the non-proliferation treaty fails, which would be very regrettable indeed, even then the permanent members of the UN Security Council, including China and Russia, and the others – you are familiar with them – together with the European Union, appear today to be of one mind in seeking to prevent proliferation in a peaceful manner, and that is indeed cause for modest satisfaction.
It is now up to Iran, in full transparency and renewed cooperation with the Agency, to convince the world that it only has peaceful objectives in mind ...
(The President cut off the speaker)
Angelika Beer, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we have to recognise that this situation is escalating. We have to realise that the strategy of President Ahmadinejad is a new one. He is intent on a breach with the West, on building up an Islamic region and taking over its leadership. We are seeing a mobilisation of national pride in Iran. How should Europe respond to this?
I expect us to be guided by reason and make clear analyses. I agree with Mr Schulz when he says that we have to abandon the ‘strategy of goal-based thinking’, that we need new dialogue partners, and that we must be active in prioritising diplomacy. I would also say, however, in view of the difficult negotiations over recent days, that the military option has been discussed, and I ask those who have this in the back of their minds to think it through. I expect them to define how they propose to deal with a military escalation, and tell us whether the way they do so will enable us to achieve our objectives, namely preventing Iran developing nuclear weapons and ensuring Israel’s existence. I do not believe that it will.
For this reason, I would appeal once more to this House to take account, in today’s vote, of our argument – which we were unable to push through in negotiations – that we should now refrain from toying with any ideas of a military approach, and subsequently to put the emphasis on diplomacy – in spite of all the hate speeches by President Ahmadinejad.
The questions as to whether sanctions should be imposed, what sanctions are appropriate and whether world peace is at risk, are not for President Chirac to answer, the man who suddenly issued the threat of France using nuclear weapons; nor are they for Chancellor Merkel to answer. The vital issue of world peace is to be decided by the United Nations and no one else, and we should not forestall them.
Miguel Portas, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (PT) Mr President, there is nothing whatsoever to recommend the Tehran theocracy. It is an ignorant and arrogant regime, as proved by the statements made by its President on the holocaust; not even Le Pen would plumb such depths. This is a reactionary and fundamentalist regime that violates human rights on a daily basis, a dangerous and reckless regime that is staking its survival on uranium enrichment, thus edging it nearer to the club of countries with nuclear weapons.
Let us be absolutely clear: Europe must do everything, short of waging war, to prevent Tehran from having nuclear weapons. This is why we do not accept the motion for a resolution, and in particular point 7 thereof. Referring the Iran question to the United Nations Security Council is an inappropriate, irresponsible step, as it brings the world closer to another pre-emptive war, this time in the form of surgical military intervention.
Europe has an alternative to escalating the dispute: it can and must turn what is currently a problem into an extraordinary opportunity for the human race and for the Iranian people. I should like to remind you of Article 6 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and I quote:
‘Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.’
This, rather than war, should be the starting point. The United States, which is a signatory to the Treaty, has an opportunity to reverse the underlying military approach in negotiations with Iran. The Council takes the view that the Union has yet to do all it can, so it is time for Chirac, Blair and Merkel to offer the world a sign of good faith.
Bastiaan Belder, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – (NL) Mr President, not being myself a Shiite, I have to say that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s current atomic aspirations really are beyond me. After all, the founder of this Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, emphatically rejected nuclear energy as ‘un-Islamic technology’. These days, President Ahmadinejad regards atomic energy as a blessing from Allah, so that really does amount to a splitting of the Shiites, if not of the atom.
At the same time, I am still confused about Teheran’s atomic intentions. On the one hand, we hear from the Supreme Leader Khamenei very reassuring words about the use of weapons of mass destruction being prohibited in Islam; it is in line with this that Iranian leaders claim to pursue the peaceful use of nuclear energy. On the other hand, the whole Persian atomic programme shows every sign of that country secretly seeking to possess a nuclear weapons capability, hence the cat and mouse game that Teheran has, for years, played with the Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.
I ask the Council and the Commission: where do we go from here? Whatever you do, I urge you to stand for no more nonsense from the mullahs, in short, to keep all your options open against a terrorist regime that so far has only played for time and wishes to drive a wedge between the European Union and the US, and Israel, respectively. Meanwhile, the Iranian nuclear clock is still ticking ominously; you must persuade the Russians and the Chinese, by a combined effort, to stop it. That is the kind of European diplomatic activity that I am expecting to see.
Konrad Szymański, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (PL) Mr President, the President of Iran tells us that his country, like any other, has a right to nuclear weapons. This might be true if Iran were a normal state, but it is not. It is a dictatorship that has openly challenged the right of one of its neighbours to exist. Consequently, Israel may well be the first target of Iranian aggression and it should have our guarantee of security right now.
As things stand, the course of events in Iran depends on the world’s powers standing as one. This will be difficult to achieve, since Russia is seeking to profit from Iran’s nuclear programme and is selling weapons to Iran, as is China, while India is planning to build a gas pipeline from that country. It therefore falls to Europe to take the lead and play an active role in resolving the conflict. Will Europe prove up to the task of working out a common strategy with the United States, or will it succumb to the next delusion born of the fertile Iranian imagination in Teheran? If the UN Security Council is not equal to the task, if we fail to change Iran's policy through a programme of economic and financial sanctions, we should not be surprised to see fighter planes in the skies above Natanz or Isfahan at some point in the future.
Hans-Peter Martin (NI). – (DE) There was something touching in the way the Austrian Secretary of State stumbled through the script presented to him on the subject of Iran and its atomic energy programme. It shows how far removed from these issues representatives of the Austrian Government have become in the first decade of the third millennium. That is a good thing; we have learnt our lessons from history, and the first speech by the Secretary of State had a lot to say about responsibility. Combining the two, the obvious course of action would actually be to take initiatives, to say that we need an even wider perspective on this conflict than that indicated by the previous speakers.
We must not do things back to front, we must start with the basics, and that means ‘no nukes’. It is incomprehensible why some, the ‘good guys’ – who decides who those are? – are allowed such weapons, whilst others are not. If the Secretary of State starts there from an Austrian perspective, he may be able to do a great deal of good in the longer term rather than just being superficially diplomatic and pleasant in the short term.
Charles Tannock (PPE-DE). – Mr President, for some years Iran has sought to export its fundamentalist revolution beyond its Shia lands to Sunni population areas, including Palestine, where, through Syria and its proxy terrorist Hezbollah, it liaises with Islamic Jihad and Hamas, both committed to theocracies under Sharia law. A nuclear-armed Iran is therefore particularly dangerous to Western security, and that of Israel in particular.
There is no consensus on how to deal with Iran, which is in clear breach of the NPT Treaty and its agreements with Britain, France and Germany, but I welcome the 3 February vote by the IAEA to refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council. I also welcome China and Russia’s belated support. The traditional compact – whereby Iran supports Russia in the OIC over Chechnya in exchange for Russian support in supplying nuclear technology, and its Security Council veto when necessary – seems now to be dissolving.
China naturally rejects further nuclear proliferation and is also worried by its own home-grown Islamist threats. Iran’s intransigence and refusal of the reasonable Russian offer on enrichment of uranium has been a wake-up call to Russia and China. Only Syria, Cuba and Venezuela rejected the proposal. The Iranians immediately pledged to resume commercial-scale enrichment of uranium, which can be used either as a fuel for power plants or, as they really wish, in the core of an atom bomb. They have ordered an end to the unannounced visits by the IAEA inspectors.
Western intelligence alleges that Iran is using a network of front companies to try and buy components for missile and bomb production from western Europe and to hire impoverished nuclear scientists from the former Soviet Union. I agree with all those who say that all options must be left available to the West to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. I ridicule the appeasing statement by the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who claims that military action is inconceivable, whereas his boss, Prime Minister Tony Blair, rightly refuses to rule it out.
Lilli Gruber (PSE). – Mr President, I would like to remind Members of certain fundamental mistakes made by many people during the Iraq affair when assessing the intentions of Saddam’s regime regarding weapons of mass destruction. Intelligence, then and today, is largely inconclusive, if not misleading. It is based largely on inferences and is often lacking in hard data. The best intelligence agencies today do not have a single reliable source in Iran capable of providing information on Tehran’s intentions and capabilities.
While it may not be perfect, the IAEA is the only means of monitoring any nuclear programme in Iran. Between 1991 and 1998, and despite Saddam’s best efforts from 1992 onwards, the IAEA could not declare Iraq free of weapons of mass destruction. So let us avoid making further costly mistakes based on confusing mistrust with well-founded suspicion. This is what warmongering politicians are trying to instil in our minds, and it is simply illogical.
One of the lessons we should learn from the Iraq nuclear case is very simple: it was the bombing of the Osirak reactor in 1981 that led Saddam to decide to have a serious nuclear programme. I can easily imagine what disasters could result from a so-called ‘surgical strike’ of this kind today.
We have the time to negotiate, we have solid political and legal grounds to request that Iran comply fully with the NPT and there is a political and social opposition in Iran that is far from toothless, but, if we want to create the conditions for security and stability in the Middle East, we, as Europeans, must make it clear to all sides that international rights and obligations are the same for everyone.
This also means that our American friends must change the political paradigm with Iran, acknowledging that their past approaches have been ineffective and that they need to adopt a more collaborative policy in order to safeguard everybody’s interests in this crucial part of the world.
Cecilia Malmström (ALDE). – (SV) Mr President, the situation in Iran provides genuine grounds for concern. Not only is the human rights situation deplorable, but the regime also mocks the world community by violating international principles and ignoring the IAEA’s demands. The idea of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons is, of course, incredibly frightening, especially in the light of its statements about, and threats against, Israel and in terms of what such a development would mean for the rest of the region. The disturbances surrounding the cartoons of Muhammad also appear perfectly to suit the regime in Tehran, and there are many indications that it is precisely Tehran that is fomenting the disturbances.
It is time for the EU to formulate a very clear strategy in relation to Iran. It should have several different dimensions: international cooperation, clear support for dissidents and forces of democracy, such as the referendum movement, within and outside Iran, vigorous condemnation of the serious human rights violations, pressure on Iran to comply with international conventions and, of course, dialogue and diplomacy. This strategy should, however, also include preparing possible sanctions decided on in the UN Security Council.
Bernat Joan i Marí (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, it appears that our strategy against the Iranian regime has largely failed. Nowadays in Iran we are seeing the worst phase of the theocratic regime: executions are continuing, human rights are at their worst in Iranian history; the mixture of religion and politics is heavier than in any other part of the world and the government is mobilising its own people and other peoples in the Middle East against democracy.
I think everybody accepts that developing nuclear power and nuclear weapons in Iran would be dangerous for the whole region. For that reason, I agree that we must act carefully when we speak about nuclear power in the region, because we could give the Iranian regime the ideal excuse to continue with its nuclear programme. Iranian leaders could be tempted to say that if Israel does not stop its nuclear programme, then Iran has the right to develop its own.
We have to be aware of the fact that when we are taking about the Iranian regime we are also talking about Syria and Lebanon, the future of the peace process in Israel and Palestine, theocracy and democracy, human rights and universal values.
Tobias Pflüger (GUE/NGL). – (DE) Mr President, the joint motion for a resolution is very problematic. Paragraphs 4 and 7 support the escalating position of the EU-3. This time, the EU-3 is greatly contributing to the escalation. Jacques Chirac’s remark that he is prepared to use nuclear weapons against ‘terrorist’ states is scandalous. The historical comparison drawn by Angela Merkel, too, is completely unacceptable. It is not only Iran’s atomic energy programme that is dangerous; the nuclear weapons in the EU – France and the United Kingdom – and the USA should also be disarmed in accordance with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The use of nuclear energy in itself is problematic.
Summoning Iran before the UN Security Council is the first step towards a military attack on Iran. All military options must be ruled out; German SPD chairman Matthias Platzeck is absolutely right about this. The war in Iraq is obviously a blueprint for the conflict with Iran. The unspeakable comments by the Iranian President on Israel and the human rights violations in the country must not be exploited for the purposes of a policy of war against Iran.
Georgios Karatzaferis (IND/DEM). – (EL) Mr President, we need to debate in order to see what we fear: nuclear weapons or the person in possession of nuclear weapons? We fear the person in possession. We do not fear nuclear weapons, because when Israel acquired nuclear weapons a few years ago by the same method, we did not kick up such a fuss. You will tell me that Israel has a democracy, while Iran has a dictatorship. Yes, but Pakistan also has a dictator – Musharef – and we allow it to have nuclear weapons. So let us look at the facts. The story of David and Goliath is repeating itself. Slings and stones were not allowed then, but David used them and his name went down in history.
What are the facts? The facts are that we want our allies to have nuclear weapons and no one else. That is intimidation and it is an-ti-de-mo-cra-tic! We should engage in dialogue, not threats. Threats always lead in the wrong direction. They lead to invasion, they lead to war, they lead to death. No one ever got hurt from di-a-logue! We should provide an opportunity, we should talk, however much the other side digs its heels in. We must make an effort, because we are the more civilised.
Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis (UEN). – (LV) Mr Frattini, ladies and gentlemen, it has been clear for some time that the Iranian nuclear issue would be considered at the UN Security Council. Let us recall that at the end of last year, when the European Parliament’s report on weapons of mass destruction was debated, it was precisely Iran’s nuclear programme that triggered the most vigorous debates. The Members’ call at that time for constructive action was shrugged off with the stance that only the path of negotiation would solve the Iranian problem. It is obvious, however, that tensions between Iran and the international community have only increased.
Ladies and gentlemen, recent months were a time for the consolidation of international action. Now, not just the International Atomic Energy Agency but all five permanent members of the UN Security Council unanimously acknowledge that Iran’s nuclear programme is not of a peaceful nature.
Certainly, it is not the European Parliament that will decide on the further course of events, but we must stress that the inability of the states to agree on joint action at the 2005 review conference of the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons) only gave rise to an obsession among Iran’s leadership.
Ladies and gentlemen, while the Iranian nuclear issues are considered at the UN Security Council, in this situation the European Parliament and national parliaments must again and again highlight the need for unity among the international community. Let us remember that any doubts or lack of conviction provide strength to the Iranian regime, encourage the fanatics and play into their hands.
Bruno Gollnisch (NI). – (FR) Mr President, we must remember firstly that it is Europe that has sold this nuclear technology to Iran. We tend to forget this, and it does not put us in the best position to protest today. Secondly, we must bear in mind that there is an enormous difference between degrees of enrichment of uranium for civilian and for military purposes. Thirdly, returning to nuclear weapons, is it not shocking that our international community has allowed several countries to the east and the west of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons without reacting in any way?
Finally, solely in relation to the external aspects of the Iranian revolution, I would remind you that the most radical and hostile forms of Islamism come to us from countries other than Iran, despite what certain speakers have said.
In conclusion, we have been swamped with so many lies in the past that we have the right to be better informed. We must ensure that the rule of law, which we advocate, is the same for everybody. This is essential to our credibility.
Elmar Brok (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, Mr Vice-President of the Commission, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, we must not let the fundamentalists and those abusing the opportunities that freedom in Europe presents destroy our capacity for dialogue. Events from the caricature conflict, to begin with, to the drastic, unacceptable statements by the Iranian President, cannot be allowed to result in the moderates that live in all regions and countries of the world losing the ability to talk to each other.
I believe that that is a crucial starting point, as, too, is ensuring that a president such as this is unable to win through in Iran, and that the many, well-educated, young people who wish to live a decent life have prospects; and for that reason we have to maintain this capacity for dialogue, in order to support internal reform process here, too.
This also means that we should not climb the escalation ladder too fast; it is not possible to go down a rung, so careful consideration is required. For that reason, I am glad that next Monday, for example, the Committee on Foreign Affairs will have the opportunity for dialogue with the Iranian Minister for Foreign Affairs, which will form an integral part of a debate such as this.
The international community must be resolute when it comes to breaches of the law – irrespective of whether these occur in the context of freedom of expression – or when it comes to ensuring that Iran abides by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the rules that have been agreed. Iran must also realise that, if it has not done so properly by 6 March, the international community stands together and that the matter may then be discussed within the Security Council of the United Nations.
For this reason, it is important that we ensure this dialogue helps to build a more peaceful world, that we do not now let ourselves be talked into taking steps that render it impossible to use this escalation ladder for peaceful purposes, and also that, in the process, we do not lapse into automatism from which there is no escape.
Christa Prets (PSE). – (DE) Mr President, we are unfortunately having to realise that the situation in Iran is escalating, and that is certainly not the right way for it to go about assuming a responsible role in the future of the international peace process, particularly in the Middle East, as Iran always likes to see it. I do sympathise with a country’s desire for scientific and technological progress for the benefit of its citizens – it must be given this option – but a field as double-edged as nuclear research requires a common effort by the international community; it is unacceptable for any parties to go it alone.
It is vital to build mutual confidence, both on the part of the USA and Europe and on the part of Iran. How is that possible, however, with talk of military options on both sides? The fact is that the political situation in the region is not as stable as we would wish upon the people living there. For that reason, we would call on all the countries of that region to enter into a process of dialogue.
Regional stability and security cannot be achieved through outside intervention, and power games must not be allowed to result in doors being closed to us, so that we no longer know what is happening behind them. We should not give fundamentalism or fanaticism any chance.
Gerard Batten (IND/DEM). – Mr President, it is estimated that Iran could have nuclear weapons within three to ten years, although the point of no return in stopping that development could be reached much sooner. Dealing with Iran has been made all the harder by the Iraq war, which was not just a disaster but could turn out to be an act of geopolitical folly. The Iranian regime cannot be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. It is a religious fundamentalist, barbaric, pro-terrorist and anti-Semitic regime.
The world became used to the nuclear stand-off between the democratic west and the communist east during the Cold War, but in that confrontation, disaster was avoided because ultimately both sides were rational. The religious fundamentalists of Iran are not rational. An Iranian nuclear device could turn out to be the biggest suicide bomb the world has ever seen. In this situation all the options are dangerous but the most dangerous option is doing nothing at all.
Koenraad Dillen (NI). – (NL) Mr President, that everyone is agreed that we cannot accept a regime of religious maniacs having weapons of mass destruction at their disposal is not something we have learned only today, so from that point of view this debate is superfluous. Far more relevant is the question as to whether we should not have stepped in much sooner. Allow me in this minute to draw your attention to the hypocrisy which Europe and the US display in matters such as these in order to pursue realpolitik.
It was, after all, France which offered Ayatollah Khomeini shelter and asylum and which helped ensure that the Shah’s Persia was able to slip into obscurantism. If we are shocked today – as we rightly are – by Teheran’s barbaric execution of minors, at the same time as it plays a leading role in the smear campaign against Denmark, should we not also question the human rights situation in the large Islamic country Saudi Arabia, which is claimed to be the USA’s major ally and hence ours too? We have not even mentioned Pakistan, itself a country armed with nuclear weapons. What do we do if another Ahmadinejad starts rebelling over there tomorrow?
Jana Hybášková (PPE-DE). – (CS) Mr President, this morning Iran announced four more executions. In January, they executed 18 people and in December 35. We sit here talking and talking while Iran goes ahead with the obvious production of nuclear weapons. Neither the US nor Israel can protect us. A military solution costing millions of lives is not an option at present. If we are to find a solution, therefore, we must understand the causes of Iran’s behaviour. It would be a gross error to think that Iran is reacting out of fear or alarm. The Persians are not Arabs.
Iran ruled the Middle East in ancient times, and for five hundred years in medieval times. The country is convinced of its position as the leading power in the Middle East, and is producing nuclear weapons in order to secure this position. Its natural historical partner in this hegemony is Russia. Iran is a nation of rapidly growing, impoverished, uneducated, isolated and radicalised masses, who are kept in silence by a hard line totalitarian regime. We are not dealing with radical Islam; we are dealing with a radical totalitarian regime. Totalitarian regimes need external enemies, they need to attack the West, to block radio broadcasts and to execute their own citizens. In contrast to previous totalitarian states, the transcendental nature of Islamist ideology makes it possible that their weapons will be used. Let us support dialogue with those that care about it and those that need it. We must, however, be clear, firm and principled in our attitude towards totalitarian regimes.
Marek Maciej Siwiec (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, there is no greater sin in politics than the sin of naïvety. A one-minute speech such as this can only appeal to the emotions and the imagination.
The sin of naïvety is what we all commit when we utter these wise words, when we agree with one another and when we remain unconcerned as these words have absolutely no effect. We are forever repeating the same words. Iran is constantly creating new situations. Has Iran recently come closer to having atomic weapons? – Yes, it has. Has it come closer to atomic energy? – Yes, it has. Has it come closer to possessing effective means of delivering these weapons? Yes, it has. – Yes, it has come closer, but we continue to utter the same words, the same naïve words.
Let us prepare for the day when nuclear weapons in Iran become a reality. Let us change our defence doctrine then, because Europe will also be affected, and let us remember how dearly the sin of naïvety cost Europe in the past.
Panagiotis Beglitis (PSE). – (EL) Mr President, there are certain findings which no one can doubt. Of course we disagree with the autocratic model of governance in Iran, we condemn the violations of human rights, but we must all acknowledge that the Iranian people put their new political leadership into place with democratic procedures.
The second finding is that Iran has an inalienable right to develop a nuclear programme for peaceful purposes. The third finding is that the nuclear programme is not identified solely with President Ahmadinejad; it has the support of the broad majority of political forces and of the people of Iran. There can be no solution outside the search for a political and diplomatic solution through dialogue, negotiation and respect for international law.
The European Union and the Presidency and the Commission must help to stop the threat or use of military means or preventive action against Iran. The decisive issue for all of us is to build mutual trust on the basis of actual facts and elements, not simple information. Commissioner, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, the European Union has every interest in preventing the repetition of a new Iraq in the area.
Marcello Vernola (PPE-DE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we need to put a stop to the activity of uranium enrichment, which lacks sufficient transparency.
The behaviour of the Iranian authorities towards the International Atomic Energy Agency has made it impossible to build the trust needed between Iran and the international community. There are still strong doubts about the Iranians’ claims that they only want to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
The recent actions of Tehran, the removal of the seals placed by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the suspension of the voluntary implementation of the additional protocol on safeguards run counter to the statements of intent made by the Iranian Government and to our attempts to secure a negotiated settlement.
On the basis of all that, we conclude that Iran is presenting itself on the international stage as the leading authority of the Islamic revolt against the West, and that it therefore intends to assert its own military might over that of the other Muslim nations. For that reason, attacking and demonising Israel becomes a strategic move. Iran considers itself to be invincible and unassailable on the economic, industrial, financial and energy fronts, and we therefore fear that any negotiation is destined to fail.
As the delegation of the Forza Italia party, we therefore propose that the Iranian Minister for Foreign Affairs be invited to Brussels to take part in a meeting with our EU-Iran parliamentary delegation. We need to explain that it will not be possible to pursue a dialogue between our Parliament and the Iranian Government if the latter does not establish an equivalent parliamentary delegation.
We must therefore request an ongoing dialogue with all of the political forces in Iran, on both the ruling and the opposition sides, and show solidarity towards Israel with regard to the continual attacks it is under, by committing the European Union to guarantee security within the Middle East. We therefore call on Members to vote against ...
(The President cut off the speaker)
Monika Beňová (PSE). – (SK) I believe that sensible and peaceful thinking people the entire world over do not have a problem with Iran itself. Iran is a country populated by people just like ourselves, with their everyday joys and cares. Our problem is not the country and its citizens. Our problem is an individual, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who became Iran’s president through circumstance, and his religious fundamentalism.
All of the problems stem from the sick mind of this one fanatic, be it the renewal of the nuclear programme, the brutal verbal attacks against the state of Israel or the primitive and deplorable denial of the Holocaust, the greatest atrocity and genocide in human history.
I therefore believe that it is important to distinguish between these two elements and not to identify the president with the whole country. Unfortunately, it has been true throughout our history that such sick minds have repeatedly managed to bring war not only to their nations and countries, but often also to whole regions and twice even to the entire world. This is where the greatest danger lies.
Ladies and gentlemen, the situation is serious, though not hopeless. However, we can never defeat fundamentalism by substituting a different form of fundamentalism – that is my message to our friend George Bush. Responsibility has been vested in us, and we must act with forethought in order to make sure that one day future generations do not blame us for failing to deal with this serious situation.
Luís Queiró (PPE-DE). – (PT) Mr President, in spite of the international efforts, it is becoming increasingly clear that either Iran is raising the diplomatic stakes, or it really is not interested in ending the uranium enrichment programme and the subsequent use thereof for military purposes.
Today’s Iran flouts the rules of the international community, has apparently no intention of honouring those rules and poses a threat to regional and world peace. Today’s Iran is potentially dangerous. Tomorrow’s Iran, armed with nuclear weapons, is a definite danger.
Against this backdrop, the citizens expect the EU to guarantee their security and to be a stabilising factor on the world stage. It is primarily up to those who have been given the task of leading the negotiations with Iran to dispel the citizens’ fears, in spite of the risk – clearly a calculated risk – that Iran will not want to heed the international community’s legitimate demands.
Mr President, simply referring the case to the United Nations and the Security Council is not, to my mind, sufficient. We believe that the EU’s first task should be to strive to maintain a cohesive and resolute response among the international community to the regional and global threat posed by Iran.
We must not allow the current difficulties and these politically sensitive times to lead to rifts, when what is at stake is something as fundamental as our global security. Iran needs to know that the diplomatic route remains open, but also that it is up to Iran to restore trust by means of practical, verifiable moves towards the total suspension of its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities. It must also abandon its provocative rhetoric on Israel and the holocaust, and must commit itself to a policy, acceptable to the international community, of respect for human rights and for opposition parties.
What appropriate, effective measures can be taken to achieve these goals? This is the key question to which we must respond.
Mr President, it is increasingly clear that the relevance of the EU’s role on the international stage depends entirely on its deeds. Let us hope that this particularly difficult time will enable the Union to show that it has the means at its disposal to play a role on a world scale, something that this House has often demanded. We hope that it succeeds in doing so.
Libor Rouček (PSE). – (CS) Ladies and gentlemen, the word most often used in this morning’s debates has been the word ‘dialogue’; dialogue between cultures, between civilisations and, I may say, even between the European Union and Iran. Relations between the Union and Iran have in recent years been based on a three-tier approach, comprising trade cooperation, political dialogue and dialogue on human rights. I firmly believe, despite the numerous disappointments and setbacks of recent weeks and months, that this approach is still applicable and still valid. It is of course totally unacceptable that the Iranian president should question the existence of another state, namely Israel, and Iran cannot be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, any more than it can be allowed to circumvent international law or the rulings of international organisations. I am, however, convinced that the potential for dialogue and for a diplomatic solution has not been entirely exhausted. I am also convinced that it is not in the interests of the citizens of Iran, the Iranians themselves, that their country should become a kind of black hole within the international community. I therefore support the dialogue mentioned earlier with the reformist groups within Iran and in the surrounding region.
Pierre Schapira (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, personally speaking, I feel bound to point out the link between the comments by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling for Israel to be wiped from the map and Iran’s decision to resume its uranium processing activities. I do not believe that these two events are coincidental. Neither do I believe that our institution can reasonably overlook the correlation between them.
Many countries are developing their nuclear capabilities, but the international community is only worried about proliferation in those countries that pose an immediate threat to peace in the world. I believe that, if Iran does not inspire confidence in us today, it is because, amongst other things, its President makes bellicose, revisionist and anti-Semitic comments. It is that President’s malevolent intentions that make the resumption of the uranium enrichment programme so worrying in terms of world peace. That is why I am delighted with this resolution.
Inger Segelström (PSE). – (SV) Mr President, the current debate is very important. The debate on the Middle East here in Parliament and in the media has, more often than not, been focused on Iraq and the election in Palestine. Now that Iran is the subject of debate, it is the issue of nuclear weapons that is being discussed. At the same time, human rights are being violated, a state of affairs discussed by many of the previous speakers.
As a member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and as Vice-Chair of Social Democratic Women in Europe, I receive very worrying reports and accounts concerning violations of both women’s and children’s rights. More time must be given to human rights issues, and we should act significantly more vigorously than I think we are doing at present.
Great changes are taking place right now in Iranian society. There are too few of us who talk of dialogue and too many of us who have got bogged down thinking in terms of a major conflict. The dialogue between the EU and Iran must be resumed. The statements about Israel are unacceptable, as are executions, death sentences and the taking of political prisoners. Diplomatic solutions must be preferred to an escalation of violence and other outrages. In modern conflicts, it is always civilians, women and children who, more than anyone else, are injured and violated. This must be put an end to now, while there is still time.
Hans Winkler, President-in-Office of the Council. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, as this debate has also shown, the resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue remains a central concern of the EU and of the international community in general; for doubts as to the peaceful nature of this nuclear programme are indeed justified.
I should like to emphasise once more, however, something that has been mentioned by many speakers in this House: that the EU remains committed to a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue within a multilateral framework, in particular within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency. That is an important point to emphasise. We believe that the Russian proposal to build a Russian-Iranian uranium-enrichment facility on Russian soil would be a good alternative to enrichment in Iran: this solution has the full support of the EU. Some have said that Austria should take the initiative, but I am, of course, speaking here in my capacity as representative of the Council, and as such I represent the position held by the Council as a whole, irrespective of any national positions.
However, as many speakers have mentioned – for which I am grateful – it is also important to bear in mind that the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme is not the only one that is important and fundamental to our relationship with that country, and which must be resolved if we are to improve our relations with its Government, with its President. There is also the human-rights issue. I should like to remind the House that, since 1975, Iran has been a party, without reservation, to both the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. Iran therefore has a clear obligation under international law to comply with the requirements of these important agreements.
Finally, I should like to confirm that I share the opinion expressed by Mr Brok and others that we must of course continue the dialogue with the forces in Iran who are favourably disposed to peaceful coexistence and to compliance with the country’s obligations. We intend to do so; of course we are willing to engage in dialogue. It must be made quite clear, however, that we must not allow this dialogue to be abused, and so we have to be very careful in our choice of dialogue partners. The issue of promoting civil society in Iran also seems to me to be particularly important in this regard.
Franco Frattini, Vice-President of the Commission. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I believe that a crucial point is that, in the international community, and obviously in our Europe, there cannot and must not be any divisions where tackling relations with Iran is concerned.
Iran has exceeded many limits with regard to its uranium enrichment activities, its systematic violations of the dignity of women, men and, above all, children, and its support for what we rightly define as terrorist organisations. Nevertheless, there is still an opportunity for dialogue and for a diplomatic solution.
As many Members have said – and I recall Mr Schulz’s remarks – Iran and Islam are not the same thing. What is needed, therefore, is a regional dialogue aimed at securing stability and peace, one that primarily involves Iran, but also all the other actors in the region that are interested in a serious dialogue with the international community.
Iran and President Ahmadinejad are not the same, either. Many Members have said so, the last of whom being Mrs Běnová. It is clear that Europe can carry out political action through dialogue with civil society and the moderate forces in Iran that are fighting for freedom, that want to think for themselves and be free to choose their own destiny, and that do not trust the remarks of their President, which are designed to incite hatred and violence.
What are the options for the future? I believe that the Security Council must now show evidence of its credibility and authority. Those in this Chamber who questioned the role played by the Security Council are indirectly questioning the role that we all assign to it. The Security Council represents the home of international legitimacy. No one should be afraid that the Security Council will hold an extensive and in-depth debate on the Iranian crisis, since it is precisely the forum to which such a matter must be brought. We have appealed to the Security Council on many occasions. The time has now come to give the Security Council the opportunity to really play its due role.
Mr President, Europe is faced with the choice between, on the one hand, working to achieve peace and regional stability – as I believe is our duty – and, on the other, pretending that nothing is going on, with the danger of an aggressive nuclear power arising in the region.
Europe has a great opportunity to exercise diplomacy and to show determination. Before we talk even only vaguely about any non-peaceful option, I believe that it is better that we emphasise democracy, determination and diplomacy as instruments for resolving the conflicts and the potential violence that we must do everything possible to avoid.
It is not a conflict that is under way, but a different approach to rights, values and democracy. If we surround Iran with democracy and diplomacy, then we will be able to avert catastrophic consequences.
President. To wind up the debate, six motions for resolutions(1) have been tabled pursuant to Rule 103(2) of the Rules of Procedure.
The debate is closed.
The vote will take place today at 11.30 a.m.
Written Statement (Rule 142)
Iles Braghetto (PPE-DE). – (IT) What should we do with the ‘nuclear’ mullahs? What initiatives should we adopt in connection with the Tehran regime, which is forging ahead with the construction of nuclear weapons? The European Union must adopt determined positions in order to avoid creating an explosive situation in the Middle East and in Eurasia.
The ayatollahs’ atomic bomb is a powerful weapon with which to blackmail the Iranian people. It is a weapon used to silence the freest, most broad-minded opinions. Iranian society seems to be drowned in silence. An initiative is therefore needed to help those in Iran who fight for freedom, human rights and respect for all religious faiths and beliefs. The silence of the Iranian people does not mean that they have given in of their own accord. It will fall to them – to the men and women of Iran who have their country’s best interests at heart – to defuse the mullahs’ bomb. Iran and Islam are not the same; Iran and President Ahmadinejad are not the same. Therefore, the dialogue must continue and must be tightened up.
We are not faced with a clash of civilisations, but rather with a different attitude towards human rights, freedom and democracy. We must encourage a more careful and respectful attitude towards every fragment of humankind, because only in that way will it be possible to triumph over hatred and violence.