3rd Dec 2022

EU holds nuclear talks in shadow of Iran hanging

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

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

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

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.


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.


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.

Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?

Over the last 10 years, Portugal has given 1,470 golden visas to people originating from countries whose tax-transparency practices the EU finds problematic. But unlike common practice in other EU states with similar programmes, Portugal has not implemented "due diligence".

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU must break Orbán's veto on a tax rate for multinationals
  2. Belarus dictator's family loves EU luxuries, flight data shows
  3. How Berlin and Paris sold-out the EU corporate due diligence law
  4. Turkey's EU-funded detention centres ripe with abuse: NGO
  5. In green subsidy race, EU should not imitate US
  6. EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary
  7. EU: Russian assets to be returned in case of peace treaty
  8. Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us