Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh has said that his country would suspend all talks with the European Union (EU) on human rights issues following the recent sanctions imposed on Iranian commanders and police chiefs.
“Iran strongly condemns the action and considers it invalid,” Fars news agency quoted Khatibzadeh as saying on April 12.
He further said that Iran suspended comprehensive talks with the EU, including negotiations over human rights issues, including those related to terrorism, drugs and refugees.
“Iran is considering the possibility of imposing retaliatory sanctions in response to the actions of the European Union, which will be announced later,” the spokesperson added.
On Monday, the EU announced that it imposed sanctions against eight Iranian commanders and police chiefs, including Commander-in-Chief of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Hossein Salami, and three entities. The sanctions were reportedly issued over the violent response to the nationwide demonstrations that took place in November 2019 amid a hike in fuel prices.
The commanders’ names have been added to the sanction list that now comprises a total of 89 individuals and 4 entities.
“These measures consist of a travel ban and an asset freeze, and a ban on exports to Iran of equipment which might be used for internal repression and of equipment for monitoring telecommunications. In addition, EU citizens and companies are forbidden from making funds available to the listed individuals and entities,” reads a statement issued by the Council of the EU on April 12.
The sanctions imposed on Iran are taken in the framework of the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime established by the Council of Ministers in December 2020. The move to impose asset freezes and visa bans, including on the IRGC head, comes as the EU plays a mediation role between Iran and the U.S., as coordinator of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), popularly known as the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that EU’s recent sanctions cannot be used as leverage in negotiations.
“Today, the EU, instead of condemning the US terrorist actions against the food and medical security of 82 million Iranians, and instead of taking steps against [the incident at] the IAEA-sponsored uranium enrichment facility, bypassed it with a mild statement, and, in the meantime, acted against the country’s military officials. These only make the European Union prove to the world that [the EU] has no place in the world,” minister Zarif said, according to a report by IRNA agency.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who was on visit in Iran, also condemned fresh EU sanctions against Iran and urged the EU to take measures to prevent the breakdown of talks over returning to the JCPOA.
“If there is no coordination in the European Union, and the right hand does not know what the left is doing, it is a disaster. But if this decision was deliberately made in the midst of negotiations… [then] this is a mistake — which, as you know, is worse than a crime,” Lavrov said at a press conference on April 13.