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Europeans protest Swiss gas deal with Iran

Vahidi in Azerbaijan looking for support

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Europeans protest Swiss gas deal with Iran

Europeans in the grassroots "Stop the Bomb" coalition demonstrated in front of several Swiss embassies all over Europe on Monday in protest of a Swiss firm's multi-billion dollar gas deal with Iran and the Swiss government's general lack of enthusiasm for joining in international efforts to curtail Iran’s renegade nuclear program.

This lucrative gas deal, which stands to net (EGL) Elektrizitätsgesellschaft Laufenburg some €20b. in revenues, stands in stark contrast to the spirit of the increasingly stringent sanctions imposed on Iran by the UN Security Council, the EU and the US, said Shlomit Sufa, a spokeswoman for the Israeli Embassy in Bern.

“The reality is that the Swiss government is failing to understand its responsibility, as a leading Western country, to ensure that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons,” Stop the Bomb’s UK spokesman, Sam Westrop, told The Jerusalem Post. “The EGL deal is indicative of a government that cares little about the Iranian regime’s efforts to destabilize an entire region and does not realize that the regime poses a grave threat to the entire Western World.”

Stop the Bomb has also highlighted Switzerland’s support for Iran’s accession to the World Trade Organization and other diplomatic efforts which prompted Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung to call Switzerland ‘Iran’s most steadfast ally in the Western world.’”

A spokesman for the Swiss Foreign Ministry responded to the protests by pointing out that Switzerland has acted to ensure that Swiss banks cannot be used by Iran to circumvent international sanctions and has taken other steps to do its part in cooperating with the UN sanctions regime on the Islamic Republic.

“In addition to the US and the EU, only approximately a half dozen states have agreed to the extensive sanctions against Iran. The majority of the states of the international community abide – like Switzerland — by the UN sanctions,” said a statement by the Ministry.

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey was instrumental in facilitating the EGL deal and was present at the signing of the contract in Tehran in 2008.

Meanwhile, Radio Free Europe reported on Monday that Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi was in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku for a two day visit aimed at expanding bilateral military cooperation and regional security between the two countries.

Analysts in Azerbaijan point to Iran’s need for strategic depth and security on its northern border as it faces Arab states and the US to its south and west and a war-torn Afghanistan to the east. But the moves could irritate Russia, and Azerbaijan already has a long standing and mutually beneficial relationship with Israel, which it would be loath to jeopardize to enhance an unequal relationship with its large Persian neighbor.


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