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Archive for Iran

Newsline: Czech Ambassador to Iran Resigns Amid Visa Fraud Allegations

The ambassador of the Czech Republic in Iran Svatopluk Čumba, has resigned this week amidst allegations that he sold 400 short-stay visas to Iranian businesspersons that were recommended by the Czech-Slovak-Iranian Chamber of Commerce. The General Inspection of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had previously examined the Czech embassy in Tehran for possible involvement with visa trade with hundreds of Iranians. According to their report, Jan Kavan and Zdeněk Zbytek from the Czech-Slovak-Iranian Chamber of Commerce issued recommendations to the visa beneficiaries, who were soon granted with Schengen visas by the Czech embassy in Tehran, with the ambassador pushing the consular service of the embassy to process their applications with priority. “True, I helped mediate visas for Iranian entrepreneurs,” Čumba confirmed, denying that he received any money for this and giving no more comments on the issue. (https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/news/czech-ambassador-to-iran-resigns-amid-allegations-he-sold-schengen-visas-to-iranian-businesspersons/) According to the Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček, there is no evidence of visa bargaining in the Czech embassy in Tehran. “We have no direct evidence of any trade [with Schengen visas], the audit report focused primarily on those visa processes, we found some failure and we took appropriate steps in this direction,” minister Petříček said. On the other hand, the Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and current chair of the Czech-Slovak-Iranian Chamber of Commerce Jan Kavan, denies that the embassy has committed any wrongdoing in issuing these visas. Still, in an interview for irozhlas.cz, he admits that the Chamber did send out 400 visa recommendations for Iranian entrepreneurs.


Newsline: Oman’s top diplomat in Iran for talks amid mounting Gulf tensions

The foreign minister of Oman has arrived in Tehran for talks with Iranian officials, in a visit that comes amid mounting tensions in the Gulf between the United States and Iran. Iran’s state television said on Saturday that Yusuf bin Alawi would meet his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and other officials to discuss the latest developments in the region. “The visit was conducted in the framework of bilateral relations and continuous consultations of the two countries with the aim of exchanging views on recent regional developments, bilateral relations … and international issues,” it added. (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/07/oman-top-diplomat-iran-talks-mounting-gulf-tensions-190727100852017.html) Friction has been rising since Washington unilaterally withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, and reimposed punishing sanctions on Tehran. Oman maintains friendly ties with both the US and Iran and has previously been a go-between for the two countries, which severed diplomatic relations after the 1979 Iranian revolution. It was also the country where Iran and the US held secret talks that eventually led to the brokering and signing of the landmark nuclear deal four years ago.

Newsline: Iran summons UK ambassador in tanker seizure row

Iran has summoned the British ambassador in Tehran to complain about what it says is the illegal seizure of an Iranian oil tanker. British Royal Marines helped the authorities in Gibraltar seize the ship because of evidence it was heading to Syria in breach of EU sanctions. Spain’s acting foreign minister said the seizure of the ship – Grace 1 – was at the US’s request. An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said detaining its tanker was illegal. Gibraltar port and law enforcement agencies detained the super tanker and its cargo on July 4 with the help of the marines. (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-48871462) The BBC has been told a team of about 30 marines, from 42 Commando, were flown from the UK to Gibraltar to help, at the request of the Gibraltar government.

Newsline: U.S. Sanctions Threat Still Looms Over Iran’s Top Diplomat

The Trump administration’s threat to sanction Iran’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, singles out the official European allies have looked to as they try to keep the clerical government in compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on June 24 the administration would levy penalties by the end of the week against Mr. Zarif, one of Iran’s most recognizable government officials. It was an unusual announcement, given that Treasury officials in other cases keep such decisions under wraps so targets don’t have a chance to shift their assets. However, U.S. officials by week’s end hadn’t taken action against Mr. Zarif, and Treasury officials on June 28 wouldn’t comment on whether action was imminent and what it might entail. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-sanctions-threat-still-looms-over-irans-top-diplomat-11561806003) European governments have sought more information from the U.S. about the coming sanctions, which could affect Mr. Zarif’s ability to conduct diplomacy, foreign officials said. European allies hope the U.S. will impose “minimal penalties” against Mr. Zarif so as not to complicate his ability to engage with the West as Iran’s main interlocutor, the foreign officials said. The threat to sanction Mr. Zarif was seen by some former U.S. officials and experts as a Trump administration message to European allies as the two sides split over the approach to Iran. Europe is seeking to keep the 2015 international nuclear agreement with Iran intact. Washington wants to get broad support behind punitive economic measures in the hope of pressing Iran to accept a new and more stringent agreement. Travel restrictions on Mr. Zarif are likely to be limited, according to Trump administration officials, although Mr. Zarif’s assets are likely to be frozen. What assets Mr. Zarif may have within U.S. reach aren’t known. The Iranian official is a polished diplomat who speaks fluent English and frequently relies on a disarming sense of humor. Mr. Zarif attended prep school and college in California and earned a Ph.D. in 1988 from the University of Denver. His thesis was titled “Self-defense in international law and policy.” He is a frequent visitor to international capitals and made a series of well-publicized appearances in New York in April.

Newsline: Iran’s U.N. ambassador rules out talks with US

Iran’s U.N. ambassador warned on June 24 that the situation in the Persian Gulf is “very dangerous” and called talks with the U.S. impossible in the face of escalating sanctions and intimidation, while the U.S. envoy said the Trump administration’s aim is to get Tehran back to negotiations. Recent attacks on tankers and the downing of a U.S. drone played out in comments before and after a closed U.N. Security Council meeting called by the United States that provided sharply different views of the current situation. It took place hours after President Donald Trump signed an executive order targeting Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and senior Iranian military figures with financial sanctions. (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/irans-un-ambassador-rules-out-talks-with-trump-administration-2019-06-24) Iranian Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi called the new sanctions another indication of “U.S. hostility” toward the Iranian people. He said the Trump administration should de-escalate tensions by stopping “its military adventurism” in the region, withdrawing its “naval armada” and moving away from “economic warfare against the Iranian people.” Acting U.S. Ambassador Jonathan Cohen outlined the U.S. case for blaming Iran for tanker attacks May 12 and June 13 and for shooting down a $100 million U.S. drone in international airspace June 20. Iran denies it attacked the tankers and says the drone was in its airspace.

Newsline: Iran Summons Swiss, UAE Envoys Over U.S. Drone Incident

Iran has summoned the United Arab Emirates’ top envoy to Tehran to protest the neighboring Arab nation’s allowing the U.S. to use a base there to launch a drone that Iran says entered its airspace. The June 22 report by the official IRNA news agency said Iran issued a “strong protest” to the UAE diplomat, saying Iran does not tolerate the facilitation of foreign forces that violate its territory. The U.S. says its RQ-4A Global Hawk was shot down on June 20 over international waters, not inside Iranian airspace. (https://time.com/5612728/iran-uae-envoy-drone-incident/) On June 21, Iran summoned Swiss Ambassador Markus Leitner to hear Iran’s protest over the alleged violation. Switzerland looks after U.S. interests in Iran. Tehran and Washington have had no diplomatic relations since 1979. Iran says the U.S. drone was a “very dangerous provocation.”

Newsline: Iran says hunger strike making embassy work in London impossible

The hunger strike by Richard Ratcliffe outside the Iranian embassy in London is making work there impossible and putting pressure on diplomatic staff, Iran’s ambassador to the UK has said. Ratcliffe, the husband of the imprisoned Iranian-British dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, began the protest last weekend and has been visited by a growing number of family members, supporters and politicians, including SNP MPs and Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson. Tired but in good spirits and surrounded by flowers and signs, Ratcliffe said on June 20 he would continue at least until the weekend, when he would speak to his wife about the steps she wished him to take next. He said it had been the decision of the Iranians to erect two large corrugated iron barriers in front of the entrance to the embassy opposite Hyde Park. The ambassador, Hamid Baeidinejad, said they were designed to shield staff from being filmed. (https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/jun/20/richard-ratcliffe-hunger-strike-making-embassy-work-impossible-iran) In an apparent reprisal for the protest, some of the diplomatic protection provided for the British embassy in Tehran has been removed. Zaghari-Ratcliffe is serving a five-year sentence for espionage and is on hunger strike in Tehran in protest at her conditions. Baeidinejad, at a briefing called in part to discuss the growing crisis in the Gulf, said of Ratcliffe: “He is now blocking the entrance of our embassy and the peace of mind of our staff is in complete despair.” He said the door of the embassy was blocked because of the action. “There are media cameras 18-19 hours a day focusing on the entrance of the embassy, so any person going in and leaving is filmed which is totally unacceptable,” he said, adding that all meetings were being cancelled as a result. Baeidinejad said he had raised with the Foreign Office his concern that Ratcliffe’s activities were in breach of article 22 of the Vienna convention, which protects the ordinary daily activities of the embassy.