Friday

18th Oct 2019

Ashton looks to closer EU ties on Iran visit

  • Ashton was in Iran on International Women's Day (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton has offered to work more closely with Iran on human rights and drugs trafficking on her first visit to the country.

She told press in Tehran at the weekend that better EU-Iran relations are conditional on finding a permanent accord on its nuclear programme.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

She said the nuclear negotiations, which are taking place in a separate format in Vienna, are “difficult, challenging” and “there is no guarantee [they] will succeed.”

But she noted that despite divisions between reformists and hardliners in the Iranian establishment: “One of the things that’s been very clear is the support that is given across the political spectrum [in Iran] for the work that is going on.”

Her host, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Zarif, said he hopes a permanent nuclear accord can be reached “in four or five months."

Ashton added that if the nuclear talks go well, the EU is keen to deepen relations with the Islamic republic.

“Thinking about some of the issues in the region, for example the real challenges of the drug trade from Afghanistan. Iran faces real difficulties there. There are ways in which we could work together to try and address that. And then looking into the future, the possibilities of all sorts of dialogues and discussions; again an example would be the environment,” she said.

Following her meetings with civil society leaders, including women’s groups, she noted there is also potential to “move forward” on launching an EU-Iran “human rights dialogue.”

Her visit is the first time the EU sent its top envoy to Iran since her predecessor, Javier Solana, in 2008.

But it comes after a series of visits by EU countries’ foreign ministers and MEPs in recent months as relations warm up.

The Italian foreign minister went to Iran late last year, while the Polish and Swedish ministers went in February.

Poland’s Radek Sikorski last month noted that when he spoke out against censorship in his press conference, his remarks were censored in Iranian media.

NGOs also say that detentions of journalists and hangings have gone up since Iranian President Hassan Rohani, who depicts himself as a moderate, came to power last summer.

For its part, Israel said Ashton should not have gone in protest at Iranian arms shipments to EU-designated “terrorist” groups, such as Hamas in Gaza.

Israeli authorities last week intercepted a ship carrying rockets to Hamas, which they say came from Iran, although Iran denies, this.

"I would expect Catherine Ashton to cancel or at least postpone her visit to Tehran," Israeli intelligence minister Yuval Steinitz said.

"Nobody has the privilege to ignore the true, murderous actions of the regime in Tehran,” Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu added.

Magazine

Yesterday's VIPs

Jose Manuel Barroso, Catherine Ashton and Herman Van Rompuy bowed out of their jobs leaving small legacies.

News in Brief

  1. Almost 7,500 people forcibly returned to Libya in 2019
  2. Puigdemont released after responding to arrest warrant
  3. Commission: Facebook's Libra needs international approach
  4. Italian PM: denial of accession talks a 'historic mistake'
  5. Catalan president blames clashes on 'infiltrators'
  6. US imposes €6.7bn new tariffs on European products
  7. G7: Libra should not operate until all risks addressed
  8. Kurds agree with US-Turkey ceasefire but not safe-zone

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Opinion

Time to pay attention to Belarus

Belarus may be hosting the European Games, but Vladimir Putin is not playing games when it comes to Belarus' independence. The West needs to get serious as well.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us