Monday, February 28, 2005

Values Matter? : Joschka Fischer’s Speech at the Opening of the Iranian Embassy in Berlin

The US does not maintain diplomatic relations with Iran and has designated Iran’s clerical regime a state sponsor of terrorism. As consequence of this designation, Iran is subject to US economic sanctions. In his State of the Union Address, President Bush called Iran “the world's primary state sponsor of terror”. One day later, during a February 3rd press conference in London, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described the Iranian regime’s human rights record as “something to be loathed”. More fully, she said this:

Now, in terms of the Iranian regime, I don’t think anybody thinks that the unelected Mullahs who run that regime are a good thing, for either the Iranian people or for the region. The region is going in a quite different direction, and the President last night again said that the Iranian people deserved better, essentially. I think our European allies agree that the Iranian regime’s human rights behavior, and its behavior towards its own population, is something to be loathed.

The next day, Secretary of State Rice met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Berlin. In the a joint news conference following their meeting, the Secretary of State and the Chancellor expressed a unity of purpose on the matter of Iran’s nuclear program. More generally on the question of the Iranian regime, Secretary Rice added:
The American President must speak as should the German Chancellor, and as he has and others, about the fact that peoples everywhere, including in Iran, have the right to have their aspirations acknowledged and that it will – it should be that the Iranians enjoy the freedom that they deserve. The behavior of the Iranian Government, both internally and externally, is of concern to an international community that is increasingly unified around the view that values matter.

Less than two weeks later, on February 16, Iran opened its new Embassy in Berlin. The German government was represented at the opening ceremony by Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. Mr. Fischer gave a speech on the occasion [link in German]. Here are some translated extracts:

Honored Colleagues,
Most honored Mr. Ambassador,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On the occasion of the opening of the new Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Berlin, I am pleased to be your guest and to be able to speak to you....

Exchange between our two countries has a long tradition. The political contacts date back to 1602....

Germany figures among the most important economic partners of Iran. The fact that the [economic] relations between our countries have been developing so well for some time is undoubtedly a positive factor.

In the cultural domain also, our exchanges have long been close and intensive....

I am especially pleased that also our scientific exchanges are intensifying....

Bilaterally, we are currently on the right path [auf einem positiven Weg]. The potential, however, is far from being exhausted. In almost all aspects of our relations, there are numerous possibilities to make these more intensive and the contacts more profound. Thus we are continuing to pursue the idea of a bilateral cultural accord, such as to facilitate the work of our cultural institutions....

This new embassy in our capital Berlin could become the visible symbol for the start of a new chapter in our bilateral relations. The great possibility is now presenting itself to open this chapter together, since our bilateral relations are not separated from international developments that are very worrisome.

Along with France and Great Britain, we are involved in an intensive process of negotiations on a long-term accord. With this accord we want to dispel [ausräumen] existing international concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Therefore, the core of the accord is agreement on objective guarantees that assure that Iran’s nuclear program can only serve peaceful purposes.

An agreement on this central point opens the way for deeper cooperation in the economic and technical domain, as well as in the political. It would also make possible expanded cooperation between the European Union and Iran. The extension of these relationships remains closely tied to the development of democracy and progress in respecting human rights in Iran.

We must not let this chance pass unused.

The second to last sentence in the extracts represents the extent of Foreign Minister Fischer's - to paraphrase Secretary Rice's formulation - "speaking about the fact that the Iranian people have the right to have their aspirations acknowledged and to enjoy the freedom they deserve. " Mr. Fischer said nothing about terrorism.

Readers may judge for themselves whether the tenor of Joschka Fischer’s speech at the Iranian Embassy reflects the same values as those animating the remarks of President Bush and Secretary Rice. By the way, concerning Mr. Fischer’s “Ladies and Gentlemen”, an article in the German daily die Welt confirms that there were “a few” women among the 1300 guests invited to the opening ceremony.

(Hat tip M.K. - Vielen Dank!)