By: Mir M.Hosseini
EU members withdrew their envoys in April, 1997 after a German court implicated some Iranian officials in the killing of four Kurdish dissidents at a restaurant in Berlin. Iran's response was recalling ambassadors from European Union states that had summoned their Tehran envoys home for consultation. All EU members, except Greece, had recalled their ambassadors. Tehran's ambassador to Greece remained in Athens. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand joined the EU in recalling their envoys.
The court ruling came as a shock. Iran's relations with Germany existed for over 100 years and Germany had been Iran's closest Western ally and biggest trade partner. After a three-year trial that included testimony by 166 witnesses, the Berlin court convicted four men in the 1992 murders of four Iranian dissidents and said the order to kill had came from top Iranian leaders including the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and President Hashemi Rafsanjani. This caused the worst diplomatic crisis between Iran and the West since 1989. On Feb, 14, 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a death decree for a British author, Salman Rushdie for his book named Satanic Verses.
Washington immediately seized on the verdict, saying it corroborated with its view that Iran was a state sponsor of terrorism, chiding the Europeans for continuing to maintain ties and trade with Iran and asked EU to join US economic sanctions against Tehran. On Apr, 30, the US State Department listed Iran as the chief sponsor of international terrorism.
People staged demonstrations across Iran. Outside the German embassy in Tehran, protesters condemned Germany as fascist but did not burn German flags. Anti-riot police forces created a cordon to protect the embassy.
Tensions remained high until the election of President Khatami in May which gave a new smiley face to Iran. Following behind-the-doors negotiations, European Union ambassadors returned to Tehran after a seven-month diplomatic stand-off. This was evaluated as a great victory for Iran. French and the German ambassadors were the last two envoys to return on Nov, 22,; complying with Tehran's request that the German ambassador return last. Iran had already begun sending her ambassadors back to some countries of the European Union.