May 17, 2021
The news of a surprise visit by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to Vienna on Saturday raised doubts about the possibility of reaching an agreement in the nuclear talks. However, confusion mounted when the Austrian Foreign Ministry later confirmed the cancellation of the visit.
Austrian newspaper Die Presse, which confirmed the visit the night before, reported that Zarif told his counterpart Alexander Schallenberg that he would not come to Vienna because the country raised the Israeli flag on the Foreign Ministry building.
“We regret this and take note of it, but for us it is as clear as day that when Hamas fires more than 2,000 rockets at civilian targets in Israel then we will not remain silent,” the Austrian ministry’s spokeswoman said, as reported by Reuters.
In Tehran, foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told the semi-official news agency ISNA: “Mr. Zarif did not consider the trip beneficial in these circumstances, and therefore the travel arrangements were not finalized.”
Earlier this week, Zarif had started a European tour, which he announced on his Instagram page, without revealing the capitals that he would visit. The tour began in Spain and was reportedly scheduled to continue in Austria and then Italy.
Although Vienna had welcomed, earlier this month, an Iranian delegation headed by Abbas Araghchi, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, a few meters away from the Foreign Ministry building, it did not hesitate to raise the Israeli flag “in solidarity with Israel in the face of the terrorist attacks,” as announced by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
Meanwhile, the war that erupted a few days ago between the Palestinians and the Israelis has increased pressure on the US negotiating delegation in Vienna, especially after a letter signed by more than 40 Republican lawmakers called on the US State Department to stop negotiations with Iran, which they accuse of arming the Hamas movement.
However, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized the continuation of the talks, adding that the US delegation in Vienna, headed by Robert Malley, would continue to try to find out whether it was possible to return to the nuclear agreement.