In a diplomatic tit-for-tat the Netherlands on Monday recalled its ambassador to Iran after members of its diplomatic staff at its embassy in Tehran were expelled, Foreign Minister Stef Blok announced on Monday.
"[We] Have decided to recall the ambassador in Tehran for consultations," Blok said in a tweet. "The decision follows the expulsion of two Dutch embassy staff. That is unacceptable."
Though the immediate reasons for this latest spat between the two countries remains unclear, tensions have heightened after the European Union first began accusing Iran of "assassination attempts" and state-sponsored "terrorist plots" in Europe.
Last month Iran slammed EU charges as "groundless" — charges which Dutch officials had helped push into the open in tandem with other European leaders.
Earlier, the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) publicly leveled accusations against Iran's intelligence service of planning an assassination operation against an Iranian separatist and opposition group member in Denmark. The Dutch Foreign Minister led efforts to bring Iran to account for plotting violent acts on European soil.
Stef Blok alongside Interior Minister Kajsa Ollongren said in January when the issue came to a head that they had "strong indications" that Tehran was behind assassinations of two Dutch nationals of Iranian origin in 2015 and 2017.
Heb besloten de Nederlandse ambassadeur in Teheran terug te roepen voor consultaties. Besluit volgt op de uitzetting van twee Nederlandse ambassademedewerkers door Iran. Dat is onacceptabel. Lees hier de Kamerbrief: https://t.co/90ZF35c9un— Stef Blok (@ministerBlok) March 4, 2019
Iran's Foreign Ministry responded last month: "The unsubstantiated accusations, such as with regard to assassination attempts and attempted terrorist attacks in Europe, have been groundless and surprising from the very beginning. We are disappointed with such accusations and concerns of the Europeans, while in Europe itself terrorist and criminal groups are being active," according to an official statement.
It's not the first time diplomatic personnel on either side have been expelled from the embassy host country. Last June Iranian embassy staff in the Netherlands were expelled for unknown reasons, and there have been other instances as recently as last year.
During the incident last summer, one senior Iranian official told Reuters at the time, “All these arrests and expulsions are part of our enemies’ attempts to harm efforts to salvage the nuclear deal.”
Iran's foreign ministry has of late bemoaned European efforts to salvage the 2015 JCPOA in the face of Trump administration renewed sanctions as not nearly enough and too little too late.
The creation of INSTEX by Britain, France and Germany to bypass SWIFT as a financial vehicle to transact (initially) merely humanitarian related purchases has been hailed by European leaders as a strong start; however Iranian FM Zarif said it falls short, and has demanded that Europe "walk the walk".
"INSTEX falls short of the commitments by the E3 to save the nuclear deal," he said. "Europe needs to be willing to get wet if it wants to swim against the dangerous tide of US unilateralism."
Most likely, the latest diplomatic row is related to repeat EU accusations against Iran of conducting subterfuge and assassination plots on European soil.
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