A visit to Iran by members of the European Parliament would send the wrong message to Iranian leaders at a critical juncture in diplomatic relations, wrote U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in a letter sent today to European Parliament President Martin Schulz. The Senators urged President Schulz to reconsider a planned visit by European officials to Iran given Iran's continued human-rights offenses and failure to suspend its nuclear program.
"While we applaud the European Union's decision to increase sanctions and to more closely align our efforts, we are concerned over reports from Europe that some members of the European Parliament are planning to visit Iran later this month," wrote the Senators. "Given Iran's failure to comply with the United Nations Security Council and suspend its nuclear enrichment program sending a delegation to Iran for a seven-day visit sends the wrong message at this particularly sensitive time."
Senators Cardin and Shaheen both have been active in their roles on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in calling for increased sanctions against Iran. Senator Cardin, the Senate Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, has called on the Obama Administration to enforce a more aggressive and comprehensive sanctions strategy and also recently co-sponsored legislation pushing the United Nations to take action against Iranian leaders for inciting genocide against Israel. As the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs, Senator Shaheen has pushed for a strong consensus between the United States and the European Union on imposing such sanctions.
The full text of their letter is below:
October 17, 2012
The Honorable Martin Shulz
President of the European Parliament
Cc: The Honorable João Vale de Almeida, EU Ambassador to the United States
Dear President Shulz:
We wish to express our deep appreciation for the decision of the European Union earlier this week to expand existing sanctions on Iran, including in the energy and banking sectors and to continue to stand with the United States and other responsible world powers to prevent a nuclear armed Iran.
While we applaud the European Union's decision to increase sanctions and to more closely align our efforts, we are concerned over reports from Europe that some members of the European Parliament are planning to visit Iran later this month. It is our understanding that on October 18 the Conference of Presidents of the EU Council will decide whether to approve this delegation trip.
Given Iran's failure to comply with the United Nations Security Council and suspend its nuclear enrichment program, the lack of progress to date on the P5+1 nuclear negotiations, Iran's increased interference inside Syria on behalf of the Assad regime, its state sponsored terrorist activities around the globe and its abysmal human rights record, sending a delegation to Iran for a seven-day visit sends the wrong message at this particularly sensitive time.
As you know, we strongly support increased ties between the United States Senate and the European Parliament, and we believe it is critical that we work together to present a strong, united front in our efforts regarding Iran at this critical juncture. We continue to support a united diplomatic effort, but that effort should be under the auspices of the P5+1 framework. With these concerns in mind, we respectfully ask that the delegation reconsiders its visit and that you do what you can to indefinitely postpone this ill-advised trip to Iran at this sensitive time.
Thank you for your time, your consideration, and your continued leadership in deepening our transatlantic ties.