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Government approves foreign minister’s trip to Iran

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Prague, Aug 26 (CTK) – The Czech government Wednesday approved the visit of Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek (Social Democrats, CSSD) to Iran and President Milos Zeman’s trip to China, the Government Office has said on its webpage.

During his visit, Zaoralek will meet his counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif and President Hasan Ruhani.

The visit, that will take place on September 4-7, is to contribute to “further development of bilateral relations with Iran in the political and, above all, economic spheres, using its revival after years of stagnation.”

The trips were not supported unanimously as some ministers warned of human rights abuses in China and Iran.

Zeman will be the only Western statesman to attend the military parade in Beijing during his September visit to China that will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two.

Culture Minister Daniel Herman (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) voted against the trip, while some more ministers abstained from the vote.

“As far as human rights are concerned, China is a country that cannot be considered a model,” Herman told CTK, pointing to the persecution of the Falun Gong members and some Christian activists.

When it comes to Iran, the question of human rights must be taken into account, too, he added.

“It is of course positive news that there is a certain liberalisation of the country, but one also has to know that the situation there is not simple,” said Herman who had contacts with the Iranian opposition in the past.

Herman said Human Rights Minister Jiri Dienstbier (CSSD) and Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Belobradek (KDU-CSL) had abstained from the vote.

Belobradek pointed out the special relations of the Czech Republic and Israel and Iran’s very radical attitude to Israel.

Zaoralek will be accompanied by a numerous business delegation.

Zaoralek will also meet Iranian Industry, Mining and Trade Minister Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh, Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Ali Tyeb-nia and parliament chairman Ali Laridyani.

Apart from business affairs, Zaoralek should debate the current situation, including the fight against extremism and terrorism, in Iran.

The Chamber of Commerce said previously it would like to organise several meetings with local businesspeople in Iran. Representatives of Czech firms in metallurgy, energy industry, pharmacy, logistics, transport infrastructure and banking should fly to Iran.

Iran offers significant business opportunities. A foreign office of the Czech Trade agency is to be opened in Tehran in the future.

The Export Guarantee and Insurance Corporation (EGAP) is dealing with new commercial cases in Iran. It can start their final assessment only after the sanctions preventing exports to Iran are lifted in the following months.

Until 2010, Czech firms with support of the EGAP exported technological equipment for over ten billion crowns to Iran.

World powers signed an agreement with Iran on July 14 to block its access to the development of nuclear weapons in exchange for lifting international economic sanctions.

Czech exports to Iran amounted to 564 million crowns last year, while imports from Iran were 163 million. Ten years ago the export volume was four times bigger. In the past few years, Czech firms exported mainly glassware, kitchenware and medicines to Iran and imported Iranian grapes, fruit, nuts and carpets.

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