Iran warns UK envoy detained for filming rally against further ‘interference’

Iran warns UK envoy detained for filming rally against further ‘interference’

Foreign Minister Israel Katz reaches out to British counterpart, expressing solidarity with London after Tehran arrests its ambassador at vigil for victims of downed plane

Rob Macaire on 12 March 2018. (UK Government)
Rob Macaire on 12 March 2018. (UK Government)

TEHRAN — Iran signaled Monday it could expel Britain’s ambassador in case of further “interference” in its affairs after a row over a vigil he attended for those killed in last week’s downing of a Ukrainian plane.

The Islamic Republic “calls for an immediate halt to all interference and provocation by the British embassy”, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

It warned that Iran’s response “will not be limited to summoning the ambassador (to the ministry) if this attitude persists.”

The statement came hours after the UK’s foreign office had summoned Iran’s ambassador in London to lodge its “strong objections” to the arrest of Britain’s ambassador Rob Macaire.

Protesters chant slogans while holding up posters during a demonstration in front of the British Embassy in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Macaire was briefly arrested on Saturday night near a protest against Iranian authorities.

Iran summoned Macaire on Sunday to reproach him for attending an “illegal gathering” and demanded “explanations” from London.

Macaire said he went to an event advertised as a vigil for the 176 people who died when Iran mistakenly downed an Ukrainian airliner, and left after five minutes when people started shouting. He was arrested half an hour later.

Also on Monday, Foreign Minister Israel Katz reached out to his British counterpart in order express his “support and solidarity” after Iran arrested the UK ambassador.

The Islamic Republic’s behavior was “appalling,” Katz wrote to Dominic Raab.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz at a Likud election campaign stop in Jerusalem, September 16, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Ambassador Macaire’s detention was undoubtedly a flagrant violation of the Vienna convention and as such was not just an assault on the United Kingdom but an attack upon the rules based international system as a whole,” Katz’s letter read.

“This behavior by the Iranian regime deserves the unreserved condemnation by all responsible members of the international community.”

Katz added: “Please know that Israel stands shoulder to shoulder with the UK.”

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