Canada lifting some Iran sanctions

(JTA) – The federal government announced it is lifting some economic sanctions against Iran.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Stéphane Dion announced Friday that Ottawa will be ending a number of sanctions against Iran, including a ban on financial services and imports and exports.

In a statement, the government said all applications for export permits would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

“We’ll engage with Iran step-by-step, (with) open eyes, because we still have a lot of concerns about the role of Iran in the region,” Dion said in Ottawa.

Dion added that Canada is considering restoring diplomatic contacts with Iran, which were severed by the previous Conservative government in 2012. He said Canada was wrong to cut ties with Iran.

“We should have been part of it, to engage Iran, with sanctions, but with diplomacy at the same time,” the foreign minister told reporters.

Dion said he was aware of Iran’s “very questionable” human rights record and the threat it poses to Israel.

In response, David Cape, chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), urged the government “to maintain caution and vigilance.”

CIJA said sanctions and “robust diplomacy have proven invaluable in holding Iran to account for its illicit nuclear program. Ongoing, targeted economic and diplomatic pressure is likewise required to address the multifaceted threat Iran poses to international peace and security.”

The advocacy group pointed out that Canada will maintain sanctions on the Basij Militia and Iranian banks implicated in financing terrorism and illicit nuclear procurement; retain Iran’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, and impose restrictions on exports to Iran of goods and technology that may be used for nuclear or ballistic missile purposes.

These steps signal that Canada “remains committed to the objective of changing Iran’s destructive behavior,” CIJA said.

In a separate report, the Globe and Mail said the Liberal government is expected to provide $15 million in annual funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which was set up in 1950 to help Palestinian refugees, after the former Conservative government phased out $30 million in annual funding to the agency by 2013.

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