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 ...
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 is a former associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating
More from Foreign Policy
Chinese Hospitals Are Housing Another Deadly Outbreak
Authorities are covering up the spread of antibiotic-resistant pneumonia.
Henry Kissinger, Colossus on the World Stage
The late statesman was a master of realpolitik—whom some regarded as a war criminal.
The West’s False Choice in Ukraine
The crossroads is not between war and compromise, but between victory and defeat.
Washington wants to get tough on China, and the leaders of the House China Committee are in the driver’s seat.