Italy going rogue on Iran diplomacy

  Guy Dinmore of the Financial Times reports that Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini is planning is flying to Tehran today to meet with his Iranian counterpart, and possibly President Ahmadinejad. This is a break from the official EU policy of avoiding high-level nation-to-nation contact with the Iranians: Mr Frattini will be the most senior ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
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585672_090520_frattini2.jpg
Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (R) gives a joint press conference with foreign minister Franco Frattini on May 9, 2009 at Palazzo Chigi, the Italian Prime Ministry in Rome. Frattini said that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in favour of Iran attending a meeting on Afghanistan in June when G8 foreign ministers gather in Italy. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Guy Dinmore of the Financial Times reports that Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini is planning is flying to Tehran today to meet with his Iranian counterpart, and possibly President Ahmadinejad. This is a break from the official EU policy of avoiding high-level nation-to-nation contact with the Iranians:

Mr Frattini will be the most senior official from a European government to visit Iran in the four years since Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad was elected president.

 

Guy Dinmore of the Financial Times reports that Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini is planning is flying to Tehran today to meet with his Iranian counterpart, and possibly President Ahmadinejad. This is a break from the official EU policy of avoiding high-level nation-to-nation contact with the Iranians:

Mr Frattini will be the most senior official from a European government to visit Iran in the four years since Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad was elected president.

Western diplomats expressed dismay that Mr Frattini intended to break EU ranks. They also said that Washington had not given Rome a “green light”. Allies have warned Mr Frattini that he risks handing a propaganda victory to Iran’s hardline president less than a month before he stands for re-election.

EU governments had agreed to shun Iran because of its refusal to halt its uranium enrichment programme in line with United Nations resolutions. The decision to keep contacts limited to Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign policy chief who last visited Tehran a year ago, was reinforced by Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s rhetorical attacks on Israel.

Dinmore also notes that Italy has long resented being left out of the “EU3” group of Britain, France, and Germany that has dominated decision-making on Iranian issues. 

Frattini’s diplomatic freelancing raises some questions about the EU’s ability ability to present a unified foreign-policy front. Recently-departed EU President Mirek Topolanek said earlier this month that the one regret of his tumultuous term was not keeping Nicolas Sarkozy on a shorter leash. The French president’s shuttle diplomacy in the Caucasus and the Middle East “gave the impression that the French were dominating the show.” Given this impression, it’s not exactly surprising that countries like Italy would look to pull off some diplomatic coups of their own.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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