DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran has warned the Austrian embassy in Tehran after it hosted a meeting between the EU foreign policy chief and Iranian human rights activists during her first visit to Iran over the weekend, the state news agency IRNA said on Monday.
Ashton met several human rights activists including the mother of Iranian blogger Sattar Beheshti at the embassy on Saturday, which coincided with international women’s day. Beheshti died in jail a few days after he was arrested in 2012 over a blog critical of the government.
“These actions (the meeting) will lead to an increased suspicion between our people and the West and it doesn’t help relations between Iran and Europe,” Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham was quoted as saying by IRNA.
Afkham had conveyed an official warning to the Austrian embassy in Tehran over the “unplanned meeting,” IRNA said, without elaborating. Ashton’s two-day visit was the first by an EU foreign policy chief since 2008.
Ashton had said after meeting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif there was a potential for a dialogue with Tehran over human rights issues in the future.
Human rights activists fear that Tehran’s rapprochement with the West since pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani’s election in June could lead to a relaxation of international scrutiny of its widely criticized human rights record.
At least 80 people and perhaps as many as 95 have been executed in Iran already this year, a surge in the use of the death penalty that has dampened hopes for human rights reforms under Rouhani, the United Nations said on February 21.
Reporting By Michelle Moghtader; editing by Sami Aboudi and Mark Heinrich