THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Netherlands said Monday it had recalled its ambassador from Tehran after Iran expelled two Dutch diplomats in an escalating dispute over an alleged plot to assassinate regime opponents.
Dutch authorities accused Iran in January of involvement in the murder of two dissidents on Dutch soil in 2015 and 2017, and the European Union slapped sanctions on Tehran over the killings.
Foreign Minister Stef Blok said in a letter to the Dutch parliament that the government “has decided to recall the Netherlands’ ambassador to Tehran for consultations” over the row.
Iran’s decision to expel the Dutch officials — which was not previously announced in public — was “not acceptable and is negative for the development of the bilateral relationship,” Blok said.
He said Iran’s move was itself a tit-for-tat response to the Netherlands’ expulsion of two Iranian embassy workers in June 2018 “due to strong indications from (Dutch intelligence) that Iran has been involved in the liquidations on Dutch territory of two Dutch people of Iranian origin.”
Tehran had informed Dutch authorities of the decision to expel the two diplomats on February 20 and they were deported back to the Netherlands on Sunday, Blok said.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi confirmed the expulsion of the two Dutch diplomats in what he called a “retaliatory” move.
“Two of the diplomats of the Netherlands embassy in Tehran were considered undesirable elements in the framework of a retaliatory measure and were asked to leave the country” on March 3 and 4, he said on the ministry’s Telegram channel.
The Dutch had also summoned the Iranian ambassador over the issue, Blok said.
Dutch police have previously named the two murder victims as Ali Motamed, 56, who was killed in the central city of Almere in 2015, and Ahmad Molla Nissi, 52, murdered in The Hague in 2017.