EU foreign ministers and Iran have said their talks in Brussels on Thursday will focus on preserving Iran's 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers, which is viewed as being under threat from the United States.
The meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif comes after Iran warned that the United States may be on the verge of withdrawing from the agreement.
But critics have lashed out at the decision to invite Zarif in light of recent human rights abuses said to have taken place in his country.
The Association of Iranian Refugees in Belgium has also organised a protest in Brussels’ EU district later on Wednesday.
A spokesman for the group said, “The meeting is happening while the ongoing massive uprisings have shaken many cities in Iran over the past two weeks. Some 50 innocent Iranian protesters have been shot dead in the streets and nearly 4000 young activists have been arrested.
“At least two young protesters have died under torture in prison so far.”
Human rights activists in Iran have raised concerns about mass arrests during the country’s worse civil unrest in years after at least three demonstrators died in a notorious Tehran jail.
"We are shocked that the representative of a religious dictatorship that has committed so many crimes is being invited as a guest to Europe" The Association of Iranian Refugees in Belgium
EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini convened Thursday’s meeting with Jawad Zarif “to ensure a full and continued implementation” of the 2015 agreement.
Under the accord, Iran curbed its nuclear programme in exchange for an easing of international economic sanctions. The United States has said it would consider scrapping the deal.
Mogherini, the European Union’s top diplomat, says the United States stepping away from a landmark nuclear deal would be counterproductive and insists other disputes with Tehran should be tackled in other ways.
But the Association of Iranian Refugees in Belgium’s spokesman added, “We are shocked that the representative of a religious dictatorship that has committed so many crimes is being invited as a guest to Europe.
“This is a shameful act which sends a wrong signal and hurts the suffering Iranian people. The EU should instead condemn the Islamic Republic of Iran and bring the perpetrators of the crimes to international tribunals.”
He said the Iranian community in Belgium would join other human rights supporters in staging the demo outside the Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters, adding, “We ask for the immediate release of the arrested demonstrators.”
On 3 January, Mogherini issued a statement which said “The European Union is closely following the ongoing demonstrations in Iran, the increase of violence and the unacceptable loss of human lives.
She went on, “For the EU, human rights have always been a core issue in our relationship with Iran. Peaceful demonstration and freedom of expression are fundamental rights that apply to every country, and Iran is no exception.”
“In the last days, we have been in touch with the Iranian authorities. In the spirit of frankness and respect that is at the basis of our relationship, we expect all concerned to refrain from violence and the right of expression to be guaranteed, also in light of the statements made by the Iranian Government.”
“The European Union will continue to monitor the situation.”