Members of the Iranian parliament have launched a fresh push to improve ties with the US and European states by building direct links between lawmakers from each country.
In an interview with Iran’s Hamshahri newspaper on Monday, Mansour Haqiqatpour, the deputy chairman of Iranian parliament’s national security committee, said that the members of US Congress are the representatives of American people and not the US government, so the establishment of relations with them “is not against Iran’s interests.”
This follows the announcement last week that Britain’s former foreign secretary, Jack Straw, had been invited to Tehran to discuss strengthening bilateral ties, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
Straw is co-chairman of the British parliament’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Iran.
Some members of Iranian Parliament showed strong opposition to the presence of Jack Straw at President Hassan Rouhani’s inauguration ceremony earlier this year.
Straw is not the only foreign legislator to receive an invitation to Tehran.
“Over the past two weeks, I had meetings with the ambassadors of Switzerland, Belgium and Greece and invited my peers in these countries to travel to Iran,” Abbasali Mansouri Arani, a member of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said on Friday.
Arani also heads the parliament’s friendship groups with those European states.
“Parliamentary groups facilitate the promotion of Iran’s ties with different countries and they have a good effect on assisting the Foreign Ministry to promote relations,” Arani said.
The Iranian lawmaker claimed that the European visitors will be in a good position to inform their respective countries of Iran’s progress and the ineffectiveness of sanctions against the country.
“If we succeed in establishing relations with British Parliament, there will be a more moderate atmosphere in Iranian Parliament with regards to the western countries particularly the US,” Arani noted.
“What is needed first in order to establish relations with US Congress is boldness, as there are US congressmen who are considered as close to the Iranian stance and give Iran some influence in Congress,” he added.
Arani said Straw is expected to travel to Iran in early January.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also said last week that the Iranian parliament is to decide on the formation of an Iran-US parliamentary friendship group.
These developments follow statements by Iran’s deputy speaker of parliament, Mohammad Reza Bahonar, known to be a member of the conservative camp, who said in October that “parliamentary diplomacy between Iran and America must take shape before official diplomacy.”
Bahonar said: “Official diplomacy has limitations that public diplomacy does not have. Public diplomacy can start with a soccer match, parliamentary consultations or lobbying.”
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