It will take more than a long-distance phone call, even a historic
one, to thaw diplomatic relations between Canada and Iran, Foreign
Affairs Minister John Baird indicated in an interview with CBC Radio's
U.S. President Barack Obama's spoke by phone with Iranian President
Hassan Rouhani on Friday, marking the first time leaders from the U.S.
and Iran have spoken in over 30 years.
When asked about the phone call, Baird told host Evan Solomon he
welcomed the change in tone but that Canada remained "skeptical."
Baird conceded that "good talk is better than bad talk" but quickly
pointed out that, "we haven't seen any movement yet" despite Obama's
show of optimism following Friday's rare phone call.
Obama said, following his meeting with Rouhani, that he believed the
U.S. and Iran can reach a comprehensive solution over the
latter's nuclear program.
"We think actions will speak louder than words," Baird said.
The minister outlined three areas where Canada would like to see "real movement" on the part of Iran, namely:
John Baird UN speech: Canada urges tough stance on Iran
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, said in his speech to the UN that
encouraging words from Iran aren't substitutes for ending its nuclear
ambitions or improving its human rights record.
calling on other nations to maintain tough sanctions against Iran
despite that country’s “charm offensive,” Foreign Affairs Minister John
Speaking at the United Nations on Monday morning, Baird drove home Canada’s skepticism
around Iran’s new outreach to the west.
“Sound bites do not
remove threats to global security. Kind words, a smile and a charm
offensive are not a substitute for real action,” Baird told the general
U.S. President Barack Obama has praised
Iran’s new “moderate” approach under President Hassan Rouhani. Last
week, Obama and Rouhani spoke by the phone, the first time leaders of
the two countries have spoken in more than three decades.
Canada severed its own
diplomatic ties with Iran a year ago, shutting its embassy in Tehran
because of security concerns and kicking out Iranian diplomats. In his
speech Monday, Baird signalled that Canada is keen to see reforms in
Iran but won’t soften its stance until tangible progress is evident.
“We will welcome and acknowledge reform, if and when it comes,” Baird said, according to a text of his prepared remarks.
“By this we will know
when genuine reform has occurred: Has there been real, measurable,
material improvement in the lives of the Iranian people and in the
security of the world,” the foreign affairs minister said.
“Nothing would make
Canada more pleased than to see a change in Iran’s nuclear ambitions. A
change to its terrible human rights record. And an end to Iran’s
material support for terrorism,” Baird said.
Baird talked tough on
the other security crisis in the region — the unfolding civil war in
Syria and allegations of chemical weapons use by President Bashar
Baird said that while Canada does not support Assad, it will not back extremists battling to take his place.
“We will never support
a brutal and illegitimate regime that has unleashed weapons of mass
destruction on its own people. Nor will we tolerate extremism and
terrorism as alternatives to Assad’s tyranny,” Baird said.
Instead, he said that Canada backs a “peaceful, democratic and pluralistic Syria.”
“But let us not
confuse a peaceful, negotiated outcome with equivocation or moral
uncertainty. There can be no moral ambiguity about the use of chemical
weapons on civilians,” he said.
Baird also spoke of
Canada’s own development initiatives, including a call to end forced
marriages, which he called “violence against women.”
“Early forced marriage is child rape, violence against young girls. The practice is abhorrent and indefensible,” Baird said.
And he highlighted
Canada’s ongoing efforts to reduce maternal and infant mortality, which
Harper put in the spotlight during his own visit to the United Nations
Baird opened his
address by paying tribute to the “victims of terrorism” like those
killed in the terror attack in Kenya that killed two Canadians,
including a diplomat.
“There is no more fitting venue to honour the life of Annemarie Desloges
and her service than right here, in front of these United Nations,”
Baird said. “The crime of terror is an assault on all people.”