Within hours of Iran’s announcement that it would accept the terms of UN ceasefire Resolution 598, officials in Ottawa last week coincidentally announced that Canada and Iran had agreed to resume full diplomatic relations after an 8½-year rift. External Affairs Minister Joe Clark said that the main factors were “commercial considerations” and “the importance of having relations with a country that is important, not only in the Gulf region but outside it.” At the same time, a senior External Affairs official said that the resumption of relations does not constitute an endorsement of Iran’s
widely criticized human rights record.
The restoration of diplomatic ties became possible in May when Iran, which accused Canada of violating its sovereignty in 1980, dropped its demand for an apology. Tehran severed relations with Ottawa after Canadian Ambassador Kenneth Taylor smuggled six Americans— bearing forged Canadian passports—out of Iran that January. The U.S. diplomats had taken refuge with Canadian officials when Iranian militants, demanding the return of exiled Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to face trial, stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979, taking hostages and holding 50 Americans for 444 days.
Taylor, now a senior vice-president of food conglomerate RJR Nabisco, Inc. in New York City, said that he welcomes Ottawa’s plans to send diplomatic staff to Tehran by Oct. 15
and appoint an ambassador within year. “It is critical that we have diplomatic presence there to interpret events for Canadian policymakers,” said Taylor. He added that the action will also encourage new Canadian business with Iran.
In recent months, Iran has secured closer relations with Britain and France. The resumption of ties with Ottawa, said Iran expert Miron Rezun, a University of New Brunswick political scientist, is a signal that Iranian moderates are now seeking to use Canada as a “conduit” to reestablish relations with the United States. Declared Rezun: “This decision seems to have been taken by pragmatists who realize that Iran cannot go it alone if it remains ostracized in an increasingly interdependent world.”
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