18th Jan 2022

EU refreshes diplomatic contacts with Iran

  • Israel and some US congressmen say time for nuclear talks is running out (Photo: Truthout.org)

The EU has reacted to Iran's appeal for better ties with a series of informal meetings and friendly statements.

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius met with Iran's ambassador to France, Ali Ahani, in Paris on Tuesday (6 August), while Italy's deputy foreign minister, Lapo Pistelli, the same day went to Tehran for a two-day visit.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Fabius' office said in a statement that: "Since the presidential elections have shown the Iranian people's desire for change, the minister noted France's wish to see [Iranian] President Rohani's entry into office open a new chapter in its relations with Iran."

Pistelli said his trip is designed to "encourage the new Iranian administration to take concrete steps to open a new era of dialogue."

The EU's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, who chairs international talks on Iran's alleged nuclear weapons programme, told Hassan Rohani in a memo also out on Tuesday that she wants a new round of negotiations "as soon as practicable."

She added: "The European Union hopes that under your leadership there will be new opportunities to work together."

British and German statements were more wary, saying Iran must put to rest fears it is making nuclear weapons before relations can improve.

The EU, in concert with the US, last year imposed sanctions on Iranian oil and banks.

It recently blacklisted one of Iran's regional allies, Lebanese group Hezbollah, and it has said its second ally, the Syrian regime, must step down.

It also sent a low-level envoy, the Greek ambassador to Iran, in his capacity as the "local [EU] presidency," to Rohani's inauguration ceremony at the weekend.

But Ashton's predecessor, former Spanish diplomat Javier Solana, also went along.

He wrote in an op-ed for Spain's El Pais daily on Wednesday that the recent election of Rohani, a moderate cleric, means that: "Between rationality and unpredictability, the Iranian people and its leader [religious chief Ali Khamenei] have chosen the former."

He added that during his 48 hours in Tehran he spoke with "various personalities" and that he "found in almost all of them the same feeling of … urgency" on improving ties with the West.

For his part, Rohani on Tuesday likewise appealed for change.

He told press that Iran will not give up its "right" to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes and that it "will not yield" to sanctions.

But he added: "We are for negotiations [on the nuclear issue] and interaction. We are prepared, seriously and without wasting time, to enter negotiations which are serious and substantive with the other side."

He also nominated Javad Zarif, a US-educated diplomat with close links to EU and US nuclear negotiators, as his foreign minister.

The US, like Britain and Germany, remains sceptical for now.

"If there’s a credible proposal [on the nuclear question] and actions that are taken … the United States will be a willing partner. But we’re not quite there yet," state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told media in Washington on Tuesday.

Several US congressmen and Israel are currently pushing for further sanctions on Iran.

The sanctions approach was described by Sweden's foreign minister, Carl Bildt, in a tweet on Tuesday, as "counterproductive at this time."

But even Solana himself, despite his sympathetic words, recalled in El Pais that when he was back in Ashton's shoes Iran had a habit of making fine proclamations one day, but the next day sending "long … cumbersome, difficult to understand" proposals for a nuclear deal, which acted as a "clear signal" that the stalemate goes on.


As Iran changes, EU and US stand still

The Iranians have made a move. Now the world should respond with something more constructive than its usual mix of sanctions and threats.

News in Brief

  1. Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola elected EU Parliament president
  2. Swedish MEP wants fines for EU carbon villains
  3. One year on: EU urges Russia to free Navalny
  4. EU bids farewell to late parliament president Sassoli
  5. Sweden investigates drones over nuclear plants
  6. Argentina, Australia, and Canada face EU travel restrictions
  7. German minister takes EU message to Moscow
  8. Djokovic now also at risk of missing French Open


Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.


Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Latest News

  1. 'Hundreds' of Russian mercenaries in Mali, EU confirms
  2. Euro countries start haggling on fiscal rules
  3. New doubts raised on tracking ads ahead of key vote
  4. Time to stop China's economic hostage-taking of Lithuania
  5. James Kanter, Shada Islam are new editors at EUobserver
  6. The loopholes and low bar in Macron's push for a global tax
  7. No love for Russia in latest EU strategy
  8. New EU Parliament chief elected This WEEK

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us