| 17 April 2024, Wednesday |

Iranian minister cancels Austrian visit over Israeli flag

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called off a visit with his Austrian counterpart in a sign of displeasure that Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s cabinet had flown the Israeli flag in Vienna in a show of solidarity, the Austrian foreign ministry said on Saturday.

Zarif was supposed to hold a meeting with Alexander Schallenberg but had cancelled the trip, a spokeswoman for Schallenberg said, confirming a report published in newspaper Die Presse.

“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 spokeswoman said.

Hamas is the Islamist group that runs Gaza. Israel has pummeled Gaza with air strikes and Palestinian militants have launched rocket barrages at Israel in the worst escalation of violence in years.

The dispute comes during talks in Vienna aimed at reviving a 2015 accord with western powers in which Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions. Former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018, prompting Iran to begin breaching its terms.

Kurz, who is firmly pro-Israel, had called flying the Israeli flag over the federal chancellery on Friday a sign of solidarity amid the violent clashes. But Abbas Araqchi, who heads the Iranian delegation at the Vienna talks, criticized the move.

Araqchi said on Twitter that “Vienna is the seat of (nuclear watchdog) IAEA & UN, and (Austria) so far been a great host for negotiations.”

“Shocking & painful to see flag of the occupying regime, that brutally killed tens of innocent civilians, inc many children in just few days, over govt offices in Vienna. We stand with Palestine,” he added.

  • Reuters