Iranian ambassador summoned over PM Janša’s 1988 massacre statement

Ljubljana – The Slovenian Foreign Ministry summoned on Monday the Iranian ambassador to Slovenia over Prime Minister Janez Janša’s recent statement about a 1988 massacre in Iran, explaining that Slovenia always advocates human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The ambassador was summoned a day after the Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the Slovenian ambassador in Tehran after Janša endorsed an inquiry into the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners when he delivered a video address to an event organised by the Iranian diaspora on Saturday.

The Slovenian ministry said today the Iranian ambassador was presented Slovenia’s stance that the country always advocates human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“This is in line with our values and laws. Slovenia and the EU are based on a strong commitment to encourage and protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law around the entire world. This is at the centre of our relations with other countries and regions.”

The ministry added that human rights are universal, indivisible and interrelated while applying to all people, including prisoners.

It also said the EU’s high representative for foreign policy Josep Borrell had already explained that Janša’s statement at the Free Iran World Summit was not made on behalf of the EU.

Similarly, Foreign Minister Anže Logar said human rights are at the core of Slovenia’s foreign policy as she spoke to the press after today’s session of the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels.

Asked about the suitability of Janša’s statement as talks are under way with Iran on the nuclear programme, Logar said Janša had merely referred to a 19 June statement by Amnesty International. If Janša’s statement is put in question, then what Amnesty International wrote is also being put in question, he said.

Borrell meanwhile told the Iranian foreign minister in Sunday’s phone conversation that an EU member can have its own stance on a certain matter, but even if it presides the EU, the stance does not present the EU’s position, he told the press in Brussels on Monday.

Speaking after the Council for Foreign Affairs session, Borrell said he had discussed the matter with Logar, while it was not on the ministerial’s agenda.

What caused some confusion according to Borrell is that Janša was introduced as the prime minister of the EU presiding country, although he did not say once he was speaking on behalf of the EU.

Borrell said the EU’s stance on Iran is balanced – exerting political pressure when necessary while trying to cooperate when necessary, for instance on the Iranian nuclear programme.

The ministry meanwhile also said that through its embassy in Tehran and in close contact with the European External Action Service and Borrell, Slovenia will continue to represent the EU in Iran.

“Slovenia’s activities are never in any way directed against any country, they are directed towards defending the respect for universal human rights and dignity.”

In his address, Janša urged an independent inquiry into the massacre, arguing this was especially important since Ebrahim Raisi, who is accused by Amnesty International of crimes against humanity for his role in the massacre, will be Iran’s next president.

This prompted the Iranian Foreign Ministry to summon Slovenian Ambassador Kristina Radej, condemning Janša’s participation in the event and the statement while asking for an explanation.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif condemned Janša’s statement while speaking with Borrell over the phone on Sunday, while Borrell assured him the statement had not reflected the EU’s position.

European Council President Charles Michel’s press service declined to comment today when asked whether Michel had spoken with Janša about the matter and whether he considered Janša’s actions appropriate.

The European Commission also declined to comment beyond saying that President Ursula von der Leyen had not discussed the matter with Janša.

The European Socialists and Democrats (S&D) meanwhile demand an explanation. They argue that the prime minister of the presiding EU country supporting the group organising the event that had been on the EU list of terrorist organisations until 2009 was “extremely irresponsible”, undermining the EU’s efforts to revive the Iranian nuclear deal.