VLADIVOSTOK, Russia - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird delivered a diplomatic bolt from the blue Friday, abruptly and unexpectedly severing ties with Iran, shuttering Canada's embassy there and giving Iranian diplomats in Ottawa five days to get out of the country.
Baird rattled off a litany of long-standing grievances with Iran during a hastily organized news conference in the Russian city of Vladivostok, where he and Prime Minister Stephen Harper are participating in this weekend's meeting of Asia Pacific Co-operation leaders.
"The Iranian regime has shown blatant disregard for the Vienna Convention and its guarantee of protection for diplomatic personnel," Baird said.
"Under the circumstances, Canada can no longer maintain a diplomatic presence in Iran. Our diplomats serve Canada as civilians, and their safety is our No. 1 priority."
The move came as a surprise, one Baird justified with complaints that Canada and others around the world have been making for months, if not years.
Baird cited an eight-month-old attack on Britain's embassy in Tehran as evidence that Canada's own diplomats there are in danger.
He also accused Iran of providing military assistance to the Assad regime in war-riven Syria, failing to comply with UN resolutions regarding its nuclear program, and "materially" supporting terrorist groups.
And, for good measure, he accused Iran of "routinely" threatening the existence of Israel, engaging in racist anti-Semitic rhetoric and incitement to genocide, and called the country "among the world’s worst violators of human rights."
"Canada," he said, "views the government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today."
He said the Canadian embassy in Tehran has been closed, while Iranian diplomats in Canada have been given five days to leave. Ordinary Canadians were also warned to avoid any travel to Iran.
So sudden was the news, Baird later felt it necessary to quell conjecture about possible military action. "Unequivocally, we have no information about a military strike on Iran," he said through a spokesman.
People seeking Canadian consular services in Iran are being directed to the embassy in Turkey.
Canada's relations with Iran have been iffy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. After Canadians spirited American diplomats out of Tehran in 1980 during the post-revolution hostage crisis, the Canadian embassy was closed for eight years.
The two countries slowly moved back to normal diplomatic relations with an exchange of ambassadors in 1996.
But the relationship chilled in 2003 after Zahra Kazemi, a freelance photographer with dual Canadian-Iranian citizenship, was killed in custody in Iran in what Canada described as a state-sanctioned murder. Canada recalled its ambassador.
Earlier on HuffPost:
“Canada has closed its embassy in Iran, effective immediately, and declared personae non gratae all remaining Iranian diplomats in Canada. “Canada’s position on the regime in Iran is well known. Canada views the Government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today. “The Iranian regime is providing increasing military assistance to the Assad regime; it refuses to comply with UN resolutions pertaining to its nuclear program; it routinely threatens the existence of Israel and engages in racist anti-Semitic rhetoric and incitement to genocide; it is among the world’s worst violators of human rights; and it shelters and materially supports terrorist groups, requiring the Government of Canada to formally list Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism under the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act. “Moreover, the Iranian regime has shown blatant disregard for the Vienna Convention and its guarantee of protection for diplomatic personnel. Under the circumstances, Canada can no longer maintain a diplomatic presence in Iran. Our diplomats serve Canada as civilians, and their safety is our number one priority. “Diplomatic relations between Canada and Iran have been suspended. All Canadian diplomatic staff have left Iran, and Iranian diplomats in Ottawa have been instructed to leave within five days. “Canadians in Iran seeking routine consular and passport services should contact the Embassy of Canada in Ankara, Turkey, or any other Canadian mission. Those who require urgent assistance should contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa, by calling collect at 613-996-8885 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. “Canada has updated its Travel Reports and Warnings to advise Canadians to avoid all travel to Iran. Canadians who have Iranian nationality are warned in particular that the Iranian regime does not recognize the principle of dual nationality. By doing so, Iran makes it virtually impossible for Government of Canada officials to provide consular assistance to Iranian-Canadians in difficulty.”
In this Nov. 30, 2009, file photo released by the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), Iranian technicians, work with foreign colleagues at the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, just outside the southern port city of Bushehr, Iran. (AP Photo/ISNA,Mehdi Ghasemi, File)
FILE - In this Saturday, Aug. 21, 2010, file photo, an Iranian security directs media at the Bushehr nuclear power plant, with the reactor building seen in the background, just outside the southern city of Bushehr, Iran. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)
In this photo released by the official website of the Iranian presidency office, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, second right, welcomes Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, for the opening session of the Nonaligned Movement, NAM, summit, in Tehran, Iran, on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Presidency Office)
This photo released by the official website of the Iranian supreme leader's office, shows the opening session of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit, in Tehran, Iran, on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Office of the Supreme Leader)
In this photo released by the official website of the Iranian supreme leader's office, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, center, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, right, Chief of Expediency Council, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, second right, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, second left, and Judiciary Chief Sadeq Larijani, left, listen to Iran's national anthem, at the opening session of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit, in Tehran, Iran, on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Office of the Supreme Leader)
In this photo released by the official website of the Iranian presidency office, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, left, talks with Iranian officials during opening session of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit, in Tehran, Iran, on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Presidency Office)
Ali Akbar Salehi
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi delivers a speech to an expert-level meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement, NAM, in Tehran, Iran, on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Arab diplomats talk prior to the start of an expert-level meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement, NAM, in Tehran, Iran, on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)