October 2, 2019
Iranian news outlets have widely denied reports that Baghdad has ordered the Iraqi consulate to suspend its activities in Iran’s second-largest city, Mashhad.
Speaking to the state-run Iran Students News Agency (ISNA), the deputy Governor-General of Mashhad Hassan Jafari said late Tuesday, October 1, that the Iraqi consulate was still operating as usual and reports about its closure baseless.
“There was a ‘slight misunderstanding’ that was later resolved, and there is no problem between the consulate and Iran,” Jafari was widely cited as saying.
In the meantime, Jafari preferred not to elaborate on the term “slight misunderstanding.”
However, hours earlier, the spokesman of Iraq’s Foreign Ministry, Ahmed al- Sahaf, had tweeted, “Minister Mohammed al-Hakim orders suspending work of the Iraqi consulate in Mashhad after the attack on Iraqi diplomats.”
“Baghdad is awaiting an Iranian explanation on the incident,” Sahaf told Sky TV, adding, “The suspension will be lifted if Iran apologizes for the attack on Iraqi diplomats.”
The two diplomats were arrested on Saturday in Mashhad after being placed under observation by the Iranian security forces, according to a written statement issued by the Iraqi Consulate General in Mashhad, Iraqi News reported.
It is not yet clear why the pair were arrested or why their diplomatic immunity not recognized.
Iranian security forces arrested the two Iraqi diplomats during their visit to the Iraqi consulate in Mashhad on September 28. Two days later, they released the diplomats without bail.
The Iranians did not explain the arrests or why their diplomatic immunity was not recognized, Iraqi sources reported.
“We are waiting for a response and an explanation as to why our diplomats were arrested and attacked in Mashhad. We are working closely with our Iranian counterparts to provide them with the appropriate information,” Sahaf said.
The Iraqi diplomats were visiting Mashhad to observe issuing visas for the annual Shiite pilgrimage to the city of Najaf.
In August an Iraqi woman visiting Iran was beaten by a police office in Mashhad’s airport. Many Iraqis travel to the Iranian city as pilgrims, since Mashhad is the burial place of a Shiite Imam.
It is not clear if the arrest of the Iraqi diplomats is in any way related to the earlier incident.