New Zealand has suspended its official bilateral human rights dialogue with the Islamic Republic, saying bilateral approaches were "no longer tenable" given Tehran’s gross violations.

In a statement on Monday, New Zealander Minister Foreign Nanaia Mahuta said the decision sends a strong signal that bilateral approaches on human rights were not tenable with the Islamic Republic, which has been denying basic human rights and violently suppressing protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was arrested by the so-called morality police for attire deemed inappropriate.

She said, “Violence against women, girls or any other members of Iranian society to prevent their exercise of universal human rights is unacceptable and must end. This is clearly a difficult time for the people of Iran.”

Tehran and Wellington had established the dialogue in 2018 with the stated hope of advancing human rights issues and concerns, and held the first round of talks in 2021. The next round of negotiations was scheduled to take place later in 2022.

Last week, New Zealand’s officials confirmed that two New Zealanders, who had been detained in Iran for a number of months, had been released and were safe. The New Zealand government also last Wednesday updated its travel warnings for Iran and urged New Zealanders currently there to leave.

Amid nationwide unrest and widespread arrests, several foreigners visiting Iran have disappeared, confirming earlier reports that the Islamic Republic is taking foreign citizens hostage.

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