Zarif holds talks with EU's Borrell on Slovenian PM's ‘unacceptable move’

July 12, 2021 - 20:40

TEHRAN – Iran continued to voice protest over a controversial speech delivered by Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa at a virtual gathering organized by an Iranian terrorist group called Mojahedin-e- Khalq (MEK).

Mojahedin-e-Khalq, also known as MKO, began its annual three-day conference online on Saturday with several former and current American and European officials delivering paid speeches via videoconference. The officials mostly launched into blistering tirades about Iran’s internal and foreign policy.

About 30 members of the U.S. Congress are expected to participate in this year's conference of MEK, including Senator Bob Menendez, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Senator Ted Cruz, and Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, as well as former ministers and officials from Europe, the United States, and Canada.

The Slovenian prime minister, who delivered a speech at the conference, drew a harsh criticism from Iran and promoted the Iranian Foreign Ministry to summon the Slovenian ambassador to Tehran.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif condemned the prime minister's unacceptable participation and imprudent remarks in the virtual gathering of the MKO terrorist group, and called on the European Union to express its position on the issue in view of the fact that Slovenia holds the rotating presidency of the EU.

Zarif made the remarks in a Sunday phone conversation with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

The chief European diplomat, in turn, expressed regret over the issue, and stressed that Jansa’s remarks, by no means, reflected the EU’s stance on relations with Iran, according to a statement issued by the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

Borrell underscored that the EU’s position is expressed by the chairperson of the European Council at the level of heads of state, and by the EU foreign policy chief at the ministerial level.

He said the Slovenian prime minister's remarks have not at all been made in the EU's capacity.

Earlier in the day, the Slovenian ambassador to Tehran was summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry where she received Tehran’s strong protest over the matter.


The ambassador was told that Iran wants the Slovenian government to give explanation in that regard, and that Tehran will accordingly show the necessary reaction.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry described the Slovenian prime minister’s move as “unacceptable and undiplomatic.”

“After the presence of Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa in the virtual meeting of Mojahedin-e-Khalq terrorist grouping, the Iranian foreign minister's assistant and director general of the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe department of the foreign ministry summoned Slovenia’s ambassador to Tehran Ms. Christina Radi and after conveying Iran’s strong protest against this move and the baseless accusations leveled against the Islamic Republic of Iran, gave her Iran’s official notice of protest against the government of Slovenia,” the ministry said in a statement after summoning the Slovenian ambassador.

“During the meeting, it was emphasized that Iran condemns the virtual presence of Slovenia’s premier in the gathering of a terrorist group, loathed among the great Iranian nation, as well as the official’s false and nonsensical remarks, which run counter to diplomatic norms and the atmosphere of bilateral relations.”

“This is besides the fact that supporting a terrorist grouping violates the UN charter, recognized international principles and human rights values and is, under no pretext, acceptable.”

The ministry added that Tehran asked for an explanation from the Slovenian government on the issue.

According to the ministry’s press release, the Slovenian ambassador confirmed that she will urgently convey Iran’s message of protest to her government.

Earlier on Saturday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh castigated Western officials including former U.S. secretary of state and CIA chief Mike Pompeo for participating in the MKO gathering.

“Bought western politicians (incl #LyingCheatingStealing Pompeo) sell themselves cheap for a Europe-hosted circus arranged by a once Saddam-backed terrorist cult with Iranian blood on its hands. Insatiable thirst for $$ & anti-Iran obsession is driving shameful western hypocrisy,” he said on Twitter.

MEK is deeply loathed by large swathes of the Iranians due to its history of killing innocent people and aligning with Iran’s sworn enemy, Saddam Hussein.

MEK’s unpopularity among the Iranians stems from two things: First, the group had been implicated in many terrorist attacks and assassinations in Iran in the 1980s. Second, while the group was going on a killing spree in Iran, its leaders colluded with Iran’s number one nemesis, Saddam Hussein, the former dictator of Iraq who gave them many military bases near Baghdad. With the military support of Saddam, MEK mounted a devastating military attack on Iran that led to its forever eradication in the country. Iranians have never forgotten, nor have they forgiven, this act of treason by MEK.

In addition, over the past few years, the group has faced growing accusations of receiving money from Saudi Arabia. “Over the last few years, the terrorist group has developed close relations with the deep-pocket Saudis. The two sides have done little to hide their ties. Quite the contrary, every now and then they seek to flaunt their romance, in one way or another,” Press TV reported.

The MKO's annual rallies often feature pro-Saudi speakers and sometimes even Saudi officials. For instance, Turki al-Faisal, a Saudi prince, former intelligence chief and key diplomat addressed the group's rallies in Paris in 2016 and 2017, prompting accusations from Tehran that Riyadh supports terrorism.

Salman al-Ansari, president of the Saudi American Public Relations Affairs Committee, a pro-Riyadh lobby group in Washington, also spoke at the MKO conference in Albania on 13 July, 2019.

He was repeatedly interrupted by cheers from the group's supporters as he bashed Iran in both Arabic and Farsi.

In an article published in 2018, Al Bawaba revealed that three tons of gold ingots and four suitcases of Rolex watches were given to the MKO by the Saudis when the group was still in Iraq.

Gold and other valuable commodities were later sold in black markets in the Jordanian capital, Amman, via Saudi-linked businessmen and the money went to offshore accounts linked to the MKO. The Saudis have in fact been supporting the MKO since Saddam Hussein's war against Iran, as the group provided the Iraqi dictator with intelligence and military support, according to Press TV.
 

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