Dutch Freedom Party knocks return of envoy to Tehran

Says move sends ‘wrong message.’

By JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
January 14, 2012 22:37
3 minute read.
Dutch politician Geert Wilders

Dutch politician Geert Wilders 311 (R). (photo credit: Reuters/Jerry Lampen)

 
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BERLIN – The Freedom Party, the Netherlands’s third-largest, has criticized The Hague’s decision to return its ambassador to Tehran earlier this month.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry’s response to an extensive Freedom Party query on relations with the Islamic Republic was exclusively obtained by The Jerusalem Post last week.

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The Freedom Party deputies suggested in one question that sending the ambassador back to Tehran sent the “wrong message” to Iran’s regime.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry responded, “The ambassador was called back for consultation as a sign of protest of the violent takeover of the British Embassy on November 29. Italy, Germany and France also recalled their ambassadors. This step was decided in close consultation with these countries and the UK. Italy sent back its ambassador in mid- December, the rest did so in the first week of January. It is in the interests of the countries involved to keep the channels of dialogue open with the Iranian authorities.”

The Freedom Party, led by Geert Wilders, poised hard-hitting questions to the ministry about the apparent lack of solidarity with Britain.

“Would you agree that sending the ambassador back is a slap in the face of the UK, an ally, whose embassy in Tehran was in a cowardly manner raided and plundered by people directly under the command of the Basij militia? If not, why not?” the Freedom Party deputies asked.

The Foreign Ministry answered “No.”

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“By recalling the ambassador for consultation, the Netherlands stood in solidarity with the UK, and the UK specifically expressed its appreciation for this. The Netherlands has made it clear in the strongest terms to the Iranian regime that it regards the raiding of the embassy as a serious matter,” the ministry continued.

“The Netherlands is taking care of certain issues for the UK while it is not represented in that country, as do other European countries.”

After Iranian militiamen stormed British diplomatic facilities last year, including its embassy, the United Kingdom recalled its ambassador and expelled Iranian diplomats from London. Britain also severed ties with Iran’s Central Bank in November.

Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal and his British counterpart, William Hague, are the only top EU diplomats to not rule out military action against Iran.

The Freedom Party has a number of deputies who are well versed in the politics of the Middle East region. Parliamentarian Wim Kortenoeven, 56, worked at Kibbutz Nahshon in 1976 and at Kibbutz Matzuva in 1981. He has authored several books on the region and has challenged the jingoism and human rights violations of Turkey’s government in international forums. This helps to explain the heightened scrutiny of Dutch foreign policy decisions in Iran and across the Arab world.

The Freedom Party also asked about Iran’s threat to close the Strait of Hormuz and its naval exercises in the vital oil shipping corridor, as well its threats directed at the American aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis. The Foreign Ministry responded, “The Netherlands condemns these statements. The Netherlands remains in close contact with the US and EU states and is monitoring the situation following these statements. This concerns the main concern of the international community: The Iranian nuclear program.

The Netherlands is working within the EU framework for further enhancement of the sanctions package against Iran so as to exert maximum pressure on that country to openly explain the nature of its nuclear program.”

The ministry added, “Concerns about Iran’s words and actions can be more forcefully brought forth if we are represented in Tehran.

Beyond that, there are other interests, such as the interests of individuals with Dutch citizenship, which need to be taken care of.”

Cnaan Liphshiz contributed to this report.

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