EU Chief Catherine Ashton with PM Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in June 2013. (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky/Flash90) EU Chief Catherine Ashton with PM Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in June 2013. (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky/Flash90)
EU Chief


EU Policy Chief Catherine Ashton arrived Saturday in Tehran for bridge-building discussions on nuclear sanctions. On the same day, an Iranian ship carrying weapons designated for Hamas – intercepted on Wednesday by the IDF – landed at an Israeli port.

Catherine Ashton, EU policy chief, made the first official visit to Iran by an EU head since 2008 in order to continue bridge-building discussions between the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council – U.S., China, Russia, U.K. and France – plus Germany) and the Islamic Republic on Iran’s nuclear program.

The Six Global Powers forged an interim agreement with Iran in November that relieves sanctions on the Islamic Republic without requiring it to destroy its uranium-enrichment program. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was a “very bad deal.”

“We must not forget that the Iranian regime has systematically misled the international community,” the Israeli leader stated last October, among several attempts to warn the West against the danger of a nuclear Iran.

On Saturday, the same day that the EU chief visited Tehran, the Klos-C ship carrying deadly Iranian weapons to Hamas in Gaza, which was seized by the Israeli Navy on Wednesday in the Red Sea, docked at the port of Eilat. Netanyahu is scheduled to deliver a press conference on this issue on Monday.

On Thursday, the day after the ship was intercepted, White House Spokesman James Carney stated that negotiations with Iran were still on the table.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Friday evening briefed US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel by telephone on the operation, saying it was “very successful, and the result of a long and combined intelligence effort, as well as the great skill of the IDF.” The interception provided yet more proof of Iran’s program to fund and arm terrorist elements, Ya’alon said.

“En route to Israel, the ship’s Turkish captain and 16 crew members of various nationalities told navy personnel how their vessel had entered the Iranian port of Bander Abbas, loaded crates without knowing that rockets were inside, and moved on to the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr, where cement sacs were loaded onto the vessel,” the Post reported.

At the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday morning, Netanyahu commented on the EU chief’s visit to Iran:

“I would like to ask her if she asked her Iranian hosts about this shipment of weapons for terrorist organizations, and if not, why not. Nobody has the right to ignore the true and murderous actions of the regime in Tehran. I think that it would be proper for the international community to refer to Iran’s true policy, not its propaganda.”


“Iranian state media and newspapers have given high importance to Ashton’s visit,” the Post added, “with some reformist media calling it ‘an achievement’ for pragmatist president Hassan Rouhani, who won a surprise election in June on a platform of more openness towards the West.”

Author: Atara Beck, Staff Writer, United with Israel
Date: Mar. 8, 2014