Wednesday

21st Feb 2024

EU holds nuclear talks in shadow of Iran hanging

  • UN monitors are meant to have access to Iran nuclear facilities under the JCPOA (Photo: iaea.org)

The EU has appealed for Iran to halt a second high-profile hanging, but said nuclear arms talks will go on regardless of human rights abuses or related blacklists.

"We're doing what we can, seeking clarification from our Iranian partners, doing outreach, and hoping that the execution will not proceed," an EU foreign service spokesman said in Brussels on Monday (14 December), referring to Ahmadreza Djalali, a dual Swedish-Iranian national sentenced to die for espionage.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

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

... or subscribe as a group

Iran, on Saturday, hanged Ruhollah Zam, an Iranian journalist who had been living in exile in France, but whom it snatched when he visited Iraq, on charges of fomenting "riots" in 2017.

The execution prompted condemnation by France, which called it a "barbarous" act, and by Austria, Germany, and Italy.

It also led EU foreign service chief Josep Borrell and European firms to postpone a Europe-Iran business forum, due to have taken place by video-link on Monday.

And it could lead to new visa-bans and asset-freezes on Iranian officials, 82 of whom the EU already blacklisted in recent years for other human rights violations.

"It's up to member states to decide whether to apply them [EU sanctions] in this particular case [Zam], but anything is possible," the EU foreign service spokesman noted on Monday.

A senior EU diplomat was due to attend a virtual meeting of the signatories of an Iranian nuclear non-proliferation deal on Wednesday.

The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has seen France, Germany, the UK, China, and Russia lift economic sanctions on Iran in return for freezing its alleged nuclear arms programme.

And Wednesday's JCPOA talks, covering implementation details, will go ahead as planned despite Zam's killing, the EU foreign service said.

"I wouldn't mix the two issues," the EU spokesman said on Monday.

"You cannot connect it [the JCPOA], or link it, or even compare it with the objectives of the [postponed EU business] forum," he added.

Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, took a similar line.

"A court has reviewed the [Zam] case and issued the verdict. We act in the framework of our regulations," Rouhani said in Tehran on Monday, according to the Reuters news agency.

"I see it as unlikely that the case will damage Iran and Europe relations," he said.

The US also signed the JCPOA back in 2015.

Outgoing US president Donald Trump later quit the accord and the State Department, echoing the EU, condemned Zam's execution on Monday.

But Rouhani indicated he was open to fresh cooperation with US president-elect Joe Biden, so long as America let Iran build ballistic missiles.

"The missile programme and regional issues have no link to the nuclear deal. These are not matters of discussion, at all," he said.

"The Americans were trying for months to add the missile issue [to the JCPOA] and this was rejected. Trump was uninformed and didn't know about the matter, but Mr. Biden is well aware of the details," Rouhani added.

EU decorum

Meanwhile, it remained to be seen when the EU-Iran business forum might be rescheduled, the EU foreign service said.

"The forum was not cancelled, it was postponed, because the circumstances are not right, exactly because of what happened on Saturday with the execution [of Zam]," the EU spokesman said.

And the event would not be held "until such time as we find it useful or appropriate," the spokesman added.

Iran executed 251 people last year.

China was believed to have killed thousands of prisoners in 2019 by international charity Amnesty International.

Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Egypt also executed hundreds of people.

Djalali, the dual Swedish-Iranian national, was convicted by Iran of helping Israeli intelligence services to target Iranian nuclear scientists.

And Rouhani, on Monday, repeated accusations that Israel was behind the recent assassination of a top Iranian nuclear expert, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, in remarks which boded ill for Djalali's safety.

"Waging instability and war in the final days of the Trump administration was the main aim of the Zionist regime [Israel] in the assassination [of Fakhrizadeh]," Rouhani said.

Nuclear arms race threat after EU rebukes Iran

EU powers have triggered a process that could bring the world back to 2006, when sanctions and threats were all that stood in the way of a Middle East nuclear arms race.

EU hopeful of Iran nuclear deal

A possible deal to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear pact is within reach, says the European Union. Washington backs the final proposals, but Tehran remains cautious.

Analysis

Why Iran desperately wants a new nuclear deal

This week negotiations on a renewed nuclear deal with Tehran started in Vienna. Iran is desperate to have a deal quickly. Elections are coming up in June, and the economy is in terrible shape.

Opinion

Only Western unity can stop Iran hostage-diplomacy

The Belgian parliament's recent decision to ratify its prisoner-exchange treaty with Iran is a grave mistake, and one which exemplifies the many downfalls of dealing with Iran's human-rights abuses on a case-by-case basis.

Feature

Only Palestinians paying thousands of dollars leave Gaza

Despite the high risk of dying from war, starvation or disease, Gazans are still not allowed to enter Egypt. Except those who bribe the authorities. And the EU mission EUBAM Rafah cannot be deployed due to security reasons.

Latest News

  1. Von der Leyen rejects extremist parties, leaves door open to ECR
  2. Russian oligarchs failed to get off EU blacklist
  3. Podcast: Navalny, Ian Bremmer and "more Europe"
  4. Only Palestinians paying thousands of dollars leave Gaza
  5. Ukraine refugees want to return home — but how?
  6. African leaders unveil continent-wide plan to buy medicines
  7. EU urban-rural divide not bridged by cohesion policy, report finds
  8. Impending Rafah disaster shows up politics of humanitarian aid

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us