24th Oct 2016

EU minister shows sympathy for Iran grievances

  • Zarif in Munich: 'Iranians put more emphasis on respect and dignity than probably anything else' (Photo:

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt has voiced sympathy for Iran’s historical grievances on the eve of his visit to Tehran.

He said at a security congress in Munich on Sunday (2 February) that Iran and the international community face “a gulf of mistrust.”

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

“[The year] 1953: Every Iranian and every Persian around the world knows what that was about. And 1979: Nearly every American knows what that is about,” he noted.

He added that for things to normalise, Iran “must demonstrate the exclusively peaceful nature of its [nuclear] programme … and we have to demonstrate that that’s our agenda and no more than that.”

Bildt was referring to the Anglo-American Coup in 1953 and the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

The UK and the US 61 years ago installed a puppet government under the Shah to get access to Iran’s oil. Iranians overthrew him in 1979 in events which led to the Iranian hostage crisis, where dozens of US diplomats were held for more than a year.

Noting that Iran and the US still do not have diplomatic relations, Bildt said the role of the EU “is to be at the forefront of efforts to reach a diplomatic solution” to the nuclear dispute.

The Swedish minister is not a formal EU spokesman, but he is due in the Iranian capital this week.

Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski is to go by the end of February, while EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton is to go “in the next few weeks.”

Meanwhile, UN Security Council powers, the so-called E3+3, and Iran are to meet again on the nuclear issue in Vienna on 18 February.

The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), suspects it has “undeclared” facilities to which it wants access.

Questions also surround its nuclear plant in Parchin, which is closed to inspectors, and its work on polonium, which can be a trigger for atomic bombs.

Speaking at the same Munich event, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif welcomed Bildt’s approach.

He said: “Iranians put more emphasis on respect and dignity than probably anything else.”

He added that Iran sees world affairs differently to “the West.”

Referring to the US’ superpower status and Iran’s ancient history, he noted: “Iran sees empires not in terms of 50 or 60 years, but in terms of millennia, and it knows that empires vanish.”

“What you call 'the international community,' we call 'the West,' because I currently chair a group of 137 countries which we call 'the Non-Aligned Movement',” he said, referring to, mostly, developing countries which reject what they call Western neo-colonialism.

Nuclear diplomacy aside, Zarif noted that Iran is open to relaunching a “human rights dialogue” with the EU.

But he said “for the time being, our priority is the nuclear issue and the removal of nuclear-related [EU and US] sanctions.”

Zarif met US secretary of state John Kerry in Munich to fix the E3+3 meeting.

But for his part, US senator John McCain told the Munich event that many in Washington still see Iran as an enemy: “Beginning with holding captive American diplomats [in 1979], Iran has a clear record of sponsoring unrest and terrorism around the world.”

Israel’s defence minister, Moshe Ya’alon, accused Iran of crimes in Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Asia and South America.

He noted the IAEA has no mandate to stop Iran’s production of ballistic missiles, which can already reach Europe.

“This is the Iranian regime: We shouldn’t delude ourselves … they are trying to gain hegemony in the region [the Middle East],” he said.

“Tehran will exploit this time [the E3+3 talks] to become, at the least, a nuclear threshold state … In one way or another, the military nuclear programme in Iran must be stopped,” he added, signalling Israel’s readiness for military strikes.

News in Brief

  1. Canada and Wallonia end talks without Ceta deal
  2. Juncker hopes for Canada accord in 'next few days'
  3. Romania drops opposition to Ceta
  4. Difficulties remain on Ceta deal, says Walloon leader
  5. Brexit could lead to 'some civil unrest' in Northern Ireland
  6. ECB holds rates and continues quantitive easing programme
  7. Support for Danish People's Party drops, poll
  8. Spain's highest court overturns Catalan ban on bullfighting

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  7. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  8. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  9. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  10. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity