BERLIN (JTA) – A top German politician has come in for criticism after announcing an official visit to Iran, only days after European leaders agreed on their toughest sanctions yet against the Islamic Republic.
Legislator Rainer Stinner, foreign policy spokesman for the Free Democratic Party, made the last-minute announcement of his trip July 29 via the Facebook social networking site. The 63-year-old politician said he would leave July 31 on an 11-day trip to Iran to discuss "nuclear [issues] and the regional situation." He will visit India before returning to Berlin.
In a call to JTA, Stinner said he would make the trip despite what he termed a protest campaign, and promised to “deal with all the tough questions” in his talks with political leaders and U.N. officials in the country.
One critic “is really initiating a big campaign against me and calling me a naive idiot and a Chamberlain and all these nice things,” Stinner told JTA. “My short answer to all this criticism is that those who prevent talk, they are willing to take shots."
Stinner said he would “definitely deal with the humans rights issues and will bring them up.”
Asked whether he would deal specifically with Iran’s threats regarding Israel, Stinner said he would discuss “many things about the position of the country in the international community," as he has in past meetings with Iranian politicians.
Critics said that whatever Stinner’s intentions, there is never a right time to sit down with dictators who brutalize their own citizens.
Nikoline Hansen, a local Free Democratic Party leader in Berlin, wrote in an open letter that “to carry on dialogue with a totalitarian, rogue state” was tantamount to “legitimizing this system and sending a fatal signal to the opposition.”
“Anyone who does business with ardent enemies of Israel is ultimately acting against their own interests,” she added.
Jonathan Weckerle, spokesman for the Stop the Bomb campaign against Iran’s nuclear ambitions, called the trip "a fatal political signal" that would strengthen the regime rather than further isolate and pressure it.
"The visit has to be urgently canceled," he said in a press announcement.
Stinner told JTA he considered it “totally naive to think or believe that when I talk to someone I will take their position.”