EU to send senior official to inauguration of Iranian president

The EU confirmed Tuesday the participation of a senior official in the inauguration of the ultraconservative Ebrahim Raisi as Iranian president, a move that has created new tensions with Israel. 

Enrique Mora, deputy secretary-general of the European External Action Service, the bloc’s diplomatic body, “will attend the inauguration on behalf of [EU top diplomat Josep Borrell],” said EEAS spokeswoman Nabila Massrali. “It is crucial to engage diplomatically with the new administration and to pass directly important messages.”

Borrell is the coordinator of the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which curbed Tehran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for sanctions relief. However, the deal has been on life support since former U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out in 2018.

As coordinator of the deal, Borrell’s “key priority is to resume negotiations … and to facilitate the way back to full JCPOA implementation,” Massrali said. Mora is the EU official overseeing the negotiations on a day-to-day basis.

Raisi, a hardliner judge whose role in the execution of political prisoners earned him the nickname the “Butcher of Tehran,” replaces moderate Hassan Rouhani, whose landmark achievement was the 2015 nuclear agreement. Raisi was endorsed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday and will be sworn in before parliament in an inauguration ceremony on Thursday, which Mora and other international officials will attend.

The EU move comes just days after Israel, as well as the U.K and the U.S., blamed Iran for a suspected drone attack on a tanker in the Arabian Sea that killed two crew members. 

Israel strongly criticized sending Mora to Tehran for the ceremony.

“The decision of the European Union to send a senior representative to the swearing-in ceremony of the ‘Butcher of Tehran’ is puzzling and shows poor judgment,” Lior Haiat, spokesperson of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, wrote on Twitter on Monday when news of the EU participation emerged.

The “EU participation gives legitimacy to the Iranian attack and the policy of aggression” of the Iranian government, he added. “We strongly recommend the EU to immediately cancel their shameful participation in the inauguration ceremony of the butcher of Tehran.”

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