TEHRAN – EU countries have informally told the European Parliament they want the Union's foreign service to open an embassy in Iran, EUobserver reported on Friday.
Tarja Cronberg, a Finnish Green MEP who chairs the parliament's Iran delegation, said member states' ambassadors in Tehran backed the idea when she met them in the Iranian capital on an official trip earlier this month.
"We held a meeting with all the [EU] ambassadors and they really stressed the importance of more open exchange … They said the best tool for this would be an EU embassy or maybe the creation of an EU special representative [for Iran] as a first step," she told EUobserver.
She noted, "The Iranians are also open to the idea … We mentioned it to the foreign minister and the Iranian president's chief of staff and they were generally positive."
She added that Iranian officials told her that "the EU plays a positive role in the world, but it is not visible enough in the Middle East."
Twenty four EU states have embassies or consulates in the Islamic republic.
The new climate in relations comes after UN Security Council veto powers and Iran agreed an interim deal on its nuclear program in Geneva in November.
Italy's foreign minister Emma Bonino also went to Iran this month. She said in a statement, "Italy intends to open a new season of dialogue with Iran, and to bring other European countries along."
A Polish official told EUobserver on Thursday that Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski is likely to go to Tehran in January or February.
Iran has also invited Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt to visit. But a Swedish spokesman said on Thursday "there is no decision" if he will go.
Polish and Swedish officials added that there is no formal EU consensus on the embassy idea, no matter what their envoys told Cronberg in Tehran.
Cronberg noted that her contacts in the EU foreign service are "not very positive" about a new embassy, in part due to the financial cost of opening another mission.
Meanwhile, Iran also told Cronberg it is happy to host the EU's special representative on human rights, Stavros Lambrinidis, with a view to launching a new EU-Iran "human rights dialogue."
Cronberg told EUobserver that Iranian MPs and officials "are seriously thinking about diminishing the number of executions for drug crimes."
Cronberg has in the past attracted criticism for her Iran-friendly politics.