8 January 2014
A delegation from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade will tomorrow travel to Tehran for a series of engagements aimed at developing relations between the Irish and Iranian parliaments and people, as well as at bolstering trade links between Ireland and Iran.
As well as meeting its parliamentary counterpart, the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, the delegation will hold discussions with Foreign Minister Dr Mohammad Zarif, Agriculture Minister Mahmud Hodjati and Dr Ali Laridjani, Speaker of Parliament, and will meet with the Iranian Chamber of Commerce. The delegation will also meet with the Head of the Iranian Human Rights Council Dr Mohammad Javad Laridjani.
Committee Chairman Pat Breen TD will lead the cross-party delegation, which includes Eric Byrne TD, Sean Crowe TD, Maureen O’Sullivan TD and Senator Deirdre Clune.
Deputy Breen TD says: “The visit to Tehran will provide a new impetus in relations between Ireland and Iran. We are looking forward to positive and open dialogue with fellow parliamentarians, senior Ministers, government officials and business leaders, and the opportunity to have a discussion on a wide range of matters of interest to both our countries.
“Levels of Irish exports to Iran currently stand at €51.5 million and the delegation will be keen to explore how trade between the two countries can be advanced. There are again opportunities in the Iranian beef market following the lifting of the ban imposed on Irish beef at the time of the BSE crisis in Britain in 1996. Longstanding connections from the pre-BSE era still exist and the meeting with Agriculture Minister Mahmud Hodjati will be an opportunity assess how this important market can be developed to its full potential. We also look forward to meeting with key officials from the Iranian Chamber of Commerce to explore bilateral opportunities in other sectors.
“The meeting with Foreign Minister Dr Mohammad Javad Zarif will afford the delegation an opportunity to hear Iran’s priorities in its engagement in the Middle East region and the wider world. Minister Zarif has garnered considerable international respect in progressing relations with the West since assuming office and was instrumental in brokering the breakthrough interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme in November.
“New President Hassan Rouhani pledged during his election campaign to improve civil rights for Iranian minorities. While the release in September of ten political prisoners is to be welcomed, hundreds of political prisoners continue to languish in Iran’s prisons. Iran’s high execution rate will also be raised by the delegation. Reflecting on a recent meeting in Leinster House with members of the Bahá’í Faith in Ireland, we will also been keen to assess whether the level of persecution of members of this faith has eased.”