Brende hopeful after trip to Iran

Bookmark and Share

Børge Brende became the first Norwegian foreign minister to visit Iran since 2002 over the weekend, and said he left feeling he’d had “good conversations” with Iran’s top leaders. Commentators believe the chances for a long-awaited agreement on Iran’s controversial atomic program have never been better.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende (left)  meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in Iran over the weekend. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartementet / Frode O Andersen

Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende (left) meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in Iran over the weekend. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartementet / Frode O Andersen

“Now Iran must show in practice that they don’t want to use atomic power to achieve military goals,” Brende told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) after meeting Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, on Sunday. “After our talks today I am more optimistic than before I arrived that there is a real willingness (to reach an agreement).” A deadline for a pact looms in around three weeks.

Iran has been negotiating with the US, three EU countries, China and Russia, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Oslo newspaper Aftenposten that they’re “making great progress.” Based on conversations with sources in both the Norwegian and Iranian foreign ministries, Aftenposten reported Monday that  “it seemed the negotiations partners have come much father than American media have reported so far.”

Invited by Zarif
Brende was invited to Iran by Zarif and met with Rouhani, Zarif, parliamentary leaders and others during his weekend trip to Teheran Saturday and Sunday. He claimed there also was “genuine interest” among Norwegian allies in the US and EU to strike a deal with Iran, which could end the country’s isolation and help solve the crisis in Syria. Aftenposten and NRKaccompanying Brende on the trip to Iran, both reported that more than anytime since the Islamic revolution of 1979, Iran seemed to be “coming in from the cold.”

That would also end sanctions against Iran and allow Rouhani to fulfill his campaign promises to end Iran’s isolation and improve the Iranian economy. It could also include Iran in trying to find solutions to the three wars going on in the Middle East at present, in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Once bitter enemies, Iran has already made moves to help Iraq fight off the brutal Islamic extremists known as ISIL who have been terrorizing wide areas of Syria and Iraq. Brende sought “constructive talks” with his Iranian counterpart “so that they will pressure Iraq to include the Sunni muslims,” important for fighting off ISIL. Brende also claimed Iran can sit with the key to finding a solution “in a post-Assad situation to end the civil war there.”

Still critical over human rights
Brende, though, was quick to point out that Iran also needs to vastly improve its human rights record. He was among many around the world to condemn the execution of a young Iranian woman just last week, convicted of murdering a man she claimed was trying to rape her.

“I wanted to take up Rouhani’s reform agenda, human rights and women’s rights, and make sure Iran hears how we react,” Brende told NRK. Attempts to change Iran’s political course have set off a new wave of arrests of opponents, while the number of death sentences has risen. The human rights situation in Iran is still described as very poor.

NRK spoke with several “men on the street” in Teheran and most were positive, though, that Iran will soon open up to the rest of the world. Among them was dentist Mohammed Kashnevistan, who hopes an atomic agreement can be hammered despite the objections of Israel and many in the US Congress.

“That would be very good,” he told NRK. “We need communication with the world and an agreement that will make it easier for business, industry and research.” Skeptics remain, in the US Congress and among the more conservative Iranian politicians.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund