John Baird Canada.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)
Canada has closed its embassy in Iran and will expel all remaining Iranian diplomats in Canada within five days, Foreign Minister John Baird said on Friday, denouncing Tehran as the biggest threat to global security.
Baird cited Iran's nuclear program, its hostility towards Israel and Iranian military assistance to the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, which is locked in a civil war with rebels.
"Canada views the government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today," Baird said in a statement, accusing Iran of showing blatant disregard for the safety of foreign diplomats.
"Under the circumstances, Canada can no longer maintain a diplomatic presence in Iran ... Diplomatic relations between Canada and Iran have been suspended," he said.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday welcomed Canada's decision to expel the Iranian ambassador from Ottawa and to close the Canadian embassy in Tehran.
"I congratulate Canada's PM [Stephen] Harper for showing leadership and making a bold move that sends a clear message to Iran and the world," Netanyahu stated.
"The determination shown by Canada is of great importance in order for the Iranians to understand that they cannot go on with their race toward nuclear arms. This practical step must set an example of international morality and responsibility to the international community," he said.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Friday praised Canada's decision, calling it "an important moral declaration and a rejection of the extremist threats of the Iranian regime against the US, Israel and the West."
Expressing hope that other states would follow the Canadian decision with initiatives of their own, the Conference of Presidents thanked Canada's prime and foreign ministers.
Also responding to Ottawa's move was Canadian MP Irwin Cotler, who said it was "as important for the reasons underlying the decision, as the decision itself."
Cotler went on to call for additional steps to be taken against Tehran, including placing its Revolutionary Guards on the Canadian list of terrorist entities, legally holding the Iranian leadership to account for "incitement to genocide," and increasing sanctions against Iran's nuclear program and human rights violations.
Ottawa has long had poor relations with Iran.
The United States has not had a functioning embassy in Tehran since the hostage crisis of 1979. Britain's embassy in Tehran has been closed since it was stormed by protesters last November.