In response to mounting pressure for the European Union to cancel its planned delegation to Iran at the end of this week, Belgian Socialist MEP Kathleen Van Brempt withdrew from the group of MEPs due to participate, citing “tension” around its reception by the international community.
"I am in favor of dialogue but it is not the right time to travel to Iran," she said, according to The European Jewish Press (EJP).
Following an emergency meeting of the Friends of a Free Iran group in the parliament last week, where it was claimed that the visit of the delegation would undermine the latest round of sanctions, Van Brempt insisted she was "in favour of dialogue, but it’s not the right time to visit Iran."
She hinted that other colleagues would follow her lead by also withdrawing participation.
Her announcement came as European Jewish Congress (EJC) President Moshe Kantor called Monday on EU parliament leaders to cancel the visit, saying it would give Iran "a vital boost to its diplomatic standing at a time when democratic countries around the world are now recognizing beyond any doubt that Iran represents the most significant threat to global peace and security today."
A spokesperson for Finnish Green MEP Tarja Cronberg, who is due to lead the delegation, declined to comment on the controversy and said that Cronberg would be issuing a further statement on the visit in the coming days, the EJP reported.
Cronberg previously claimed the visit would "provide the first opportunity for dialogue between the two delegations for over three years and should be regarded as a bridge-building exercise."
However, the Vice President of the European Parliament, Alejo Vidal-Quadras, from the European People’s Party group (Christian-Democrats) told the meeting of the Friends of a Free Iran that "any formal delegation from the European Parliament, or indeed any national parliament in Europe, to Iran would be extremely counter-productive," coming so soon after increased sanctions were announced aimed at forcing Iran’s hand to abandoning its nuclear ambitions, as well as rejecting "not only human rights violations, but also repression, fundamentalism and terrorism."
Last week, U.S. lawmakers joined Israeli diplomats in condemning the upcoming delegation to the Islamic regime, saying it would send “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,” Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) wrote in a letter to European Parliament President Martin Schulz. “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.”