European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini will discuss the opening of a permanent EU diplomatic mission in Tehran during her coming visit to Iran, a senior EU official says.
“This is about us re-engaging gradually,” the official said, adding that issues of bilateral interest will be discussed during the trip by Mogherini and seven EU commissioners to Tehran on Saturday.
Mogherini is also expected to talk about the five-year-old war in Syria with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. According to the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 270,000 people have been killed in the conflict. Some reports, however, put the death toll at as high as 470,000.
Iran-EU economic talks
During their meetings in Iran, the EU representatives will expectedly look at how to help energy-rich Iran join the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The EU delegation will also talk to Iran about how to persuade European banks to do business in the country. “We need to improve the investment climate,” the EU official said.
Despite the removal of sanctions against Iran following a nuclear agreement, global enterprises and banks are complaining that trade with the country is still difficult as a result of lingering fears of US punitive actions.
In a March report, Reuters quoted business leaders as saying that a key obstacle specifically affecting business with Iran is the unwillingness of international banks to process transactions with the country.
The failure by European banks to play their due role in business with Iran has already provoked reactions from several EU leaders and business leaders.
British Prime Minister David Cameron in early March rebuked Barclays for hampering companies trying to export to Iran.
In a strongly worded letter to the bank, Cameron said that Barclays appeared to be operating “in opposition to the policy of the UK government”.
The EU officials’ trip to Tehran follows visits by European government authorities, most recently by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi this week.
Renzi arrived in Tehran on Tuesday at the head of a 250-strong political and economic delegation, making him the first major Western figure to travel to Iran after the lifting of sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
The trip came three months after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani paid a visit to Italy, the Vatican and France in an important bid to rebuild relations with Europe.
Rouhani made the trip after Iran and the P5+1 group of countries started to implement a nuclear agreement, dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), they reached on July 14, 2015.
Under the JCPOA, all nuclear-related sanctions imposed on Tehran by the European Union, the Security Council and the US were lifted.