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Netherlands Recalls Iran Envoy Amid Dispute


Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok

The Netherlands' foreign minister says he has recalled the country's ambassador to Iran for "consultations" after Tehran expelled two Dutch diplomats amid escalating tensions between the two countries.

Foreign Minister Stef Blok said in a March 4 letter to lawmakers that he had told Iran's ambassador in The Hague last month that the expulsions of the two diplomats from the Dutch Embassy were "unacceptable" and "negative for the bilateral relationship" between the two countries.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi confirmed the expulsion of the two Dutch diplomats in what he called a "retaliatory" move, after the Dutch government last year expelled two Iranian citizens.

"Two of the diplomats of the Netherlands embassy in Tehran were considered undesirable elements in the framework of a retaliatory measure," Qasemi said on the ministry's Telegram channel.

No explanation was offered at the time for the expulsions of the two Iranians, but the Dutch government this year accused Iran of likely involvement in the killings of two Dutch nationals of Iranian origin in 2015 and 2017. Both were opponents of the Iranian regime.

In January, the European Union approved fresh sanctions on Iran's intelligence services and two Iranian nationals, accusing them of attempting -- or carrying out -- attacks against Iranian government opponents on Dutch, Danish, and French soil.

In October, Denmark accused Iranian authorities of planning to carry out attacks on its soil on Iranian exiles belonging to an Iranian opposition group, while France blamed Tehran for a foiled bombing attack that targeted a rally organized by another banned group near Paris in June.

Tehran denied the accusations, saying they were aimed at damaging relations between Iran and the EU.

The alleged plots in Europe have strained relations between Tehran and the EU, which has been working to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal after the United States pulled out of the accord aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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