EU agrees co-ordinated withdrawal of ambassadors from Iran
Britain, France, the Netherlands and Germany have already recalled their ambassadors and staff and closed their embassies in Iran after a group of protesters broke into the building of the UK embassy in Tehran late on Tuesday. Italy joined this group recalling its ambassador on Thursday. The head of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Giulio Terzi, also advised all Italian citizens in Iran to stay vigilant.
"As of the last few minutes, all our UK-based staff have now left Iran," the British foreign secretary William Hague told reporters on Wednesday, "if any country makes it impossible for us to operate on their soil, they cannot expect to have a functioning embassy here."
Hague also stated he had ordered the Iranian embassy in London be closed immediately. According to Iranian authorities, this might lead to tit-for-tat actions from the Iranian side in future.
The UK announced last week that it had decided to halt all transactions with Iran's financial system, including its central bank.
"This does not amount to the severing of diplomatic relations in their entirety. It is an action that reduces our relations with Iran to the lowest level consistent with the maintenance of diplomatic relations," he said.
French foreign minister Alain Juppe's chief of staff pointed out he will negotiate with other EU leaders about further relations with Iran.
"Tomorrow with our European partners, we will discuss further repercussions of this latest irresponsible behavior by the Iranian authorities," Valero said.
European Union foreign ministers however have failed to reach an agreement to impose an embargo on Iranian oil, but have agreed to increase fresh sanctions against 180 people and companies following an attack on the UK embassy in Tehran.
Iran has evoked anger from the international community for failing to protect the British embassy in Tehran. Representatives of some countries, including Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister argued in favor of an oil embargo, stressing that it would reduce drastically the amount of money used by Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Greece however, objected to this move, as it relies greatly on Iranian oil.
Paolo Raffone, a founder of Italian think-tank the CIPI Foundation, told RT that although the EU has collectively decided on fresh sanctions, they have however been quite watered down in the final version.
“This is due to an EU split between the interests of certain countries in the north and the other countries in the south of Europe. It is clear that for the UK and for Germany, Iran is less relevant in terms of energy supplies and therefore they can have a stronger voice claiming for tougher sanctions. It is not so for the southern European countries,” he explained.
“Moreover, the entire situation is very strange. We are in the presence of activities on Iranian soil which look like the beginning of a war-type relationship. Think about the explosions at the nuclear plant and what happened at the British embassy,” he added.
Lamb stressed that as international pressure is escalating around the situation in Iran, it could all theoretically lead to a military strike.
“And in this case the region will be up in flames. If there’s an attack on Iran, Lebanon reacts against Palestine, Israel and Syria get involved and the region presumably burns,” he said.
“The point about the sanctions is that they simply target the individual lower-income population and the idea is that the population will then break with the government. That has not been the case historically. Sanctions have not been effective, they really hurt the population. Iran is not about to yield to sanctions, and there are ways to lessen the effect of the sanctions,” Lamb explained.