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Liam Fox: Iran & Britain – Understanding what we have in common

In a speech to the University of St. Andrews' Institute for Iranian Studies today, Shadow Defence Secretary, Dr Liam Fox said:

"During my visit to Tehran last summer all my meetings began with the same pre-amble. It went something like this: For long periods of our history Iran was an important ally and strategic partner of the West. There are good reasons of common interests that shaped this relationship, common interests that are still largely intact and which ought to be shaping relationships in future.

"Iran needs access to international markets and the lifting of sanctions if it is to realise more of its economic potential. An increase in international trade will be to everyone's' benefit. On the issue of civil nuclear power, Iran has a right to this technology under the non-proliferation Treaty but only if it complies fully with its obligations under international law.

"This was generally the point in our conversations when positions began to diverge. My general reaction to all this was a strong feeling that the Iranian people deserve far better. A nation with such a rich cultural tradition, historical role, power and importance deserves to be better represented. A Country with natural wealth, both in its natural resources and its people, should live with optimism and hope not short-sightedness and paranoia.

"There are those who believe that there is little point in trying to engage Iran further under its current government. While this frustration is understandable I believe it to be misplaced. Engagement is always likely to produce better results than the alternative - especially as failing to talk is generally regarded in the Middle East as arrogance rather than strength. But we equally need to be clear about the nature of what we are dealing with and respond with clarity, strength and consistency.

"A crucial test of the ability of the system to evolve from within will come in the Parliamentary elections in March.

"The situation must be treated with consistency and resolve by the International Community. It cannot be emphasised enough that we do not have a quarrel with the people of Iran. On the contrary, their interests and ours overlap to a considerable degree. We want to see a more prosperous and free Iran take its rightful place as an important regional and global player. It is a self-serving elite who are condemning Iran to economic failure, inflation and international isolation. The people of Iran deserve so much better but it is they who must be the final arbiters of their own destiny.

The whole World will, over the coming weeks, hope that they have the strength and fortitude to overcome the hurdles they face in asserting themselves and the courage to make the right decisions for theirs and Iran's future."

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