Statement by Foreign Minister Samuelsen on Iran
Press conference about illegal Iranian intelligence activities in Denmark 30 October 2018
I have called this press conference to inform you about the steps the Government has taken and will take in connection with the very serious matter, which the Head of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service has disclosed today. The Danish Security and Intelligence Service assesses that an intelligence agency of a foreign country has been planning to assassinate a person on Danish soil. Let me be frank about this: That is completely unacceptable and extremely serious. Words can hardly describe the gravity of the matter.
So the Danish government has now reacted, and has reacted sharply.
First of all, it is an unusual step that the government and the Danish Security and Intelligence Service today have disclosed the matter with maximum transparency, and have made it completely clear that the arrow is pointing at the Iranian intelligence service. We have tried as clearly as possible to highlight what is at stake. That has already been noticed abroad.
Secondly, I have decided to recall the Danish ambassador in Teheran for consultations. Allow me to stress that this is a very strong and very unusual diplomatic step.
Thirdly, earlier today we summoned the Iranian ambassador to Denmark to a meeting in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At the meeting it was made crystal clear that Denmark cannot under any circumstances accept that persons connected with an Iranian intelligence agency plan an assassination against persons in Denmark.
At the same time, regretfully, it seems that the Iranian behavior is not limited to Denmark. Several other countries share our concern. That’s why – fourthly – Denmark has contacted a group of like-minded countries who share our concerns. We will continue the close cooperation with these countries and discuss common measures towards Iran.
And fifthly: When we discussed whether to introduce further sanctions against Iran in the spring, I was in favor. So far, however, that has not gained full support among EU countries. But in light of recent events, Denmark will now be heading efforts to have the EU discuss the need for further sanctions against Iran once again.
Today, Iran has denied that Iran’s intelligence service could be behind the attempted assassination in Denmark. Iran is ruled by several fractions, and it is possible that parts of the government are unaware about the Iranian activities. But that does not change the fact that Iran as a state is behind it. And it does not change the fact that it is completely unacceptable.
The government has been concerned about Iran for a long time: About Iran’s regional behavior. About the country’s ballistic missiles program.
And about the human rights situation in the country. I have expressed myself publicly about this before.
What has been disclosed by the Danish Security and Intelligence Service today shows that Iran is also behaving unacceptably on Danish soil – and that behavior needs to stop.
Tomorrow, the heads of the Middle East departments of the EU-countries will meet in Brussels. I have asked the Danish representative account for the Danish case and make it entirely clear how seriously we take this case in Denmark, and how utterly unacceptable the Iranian intelligence activities in Europe are. I have also asked the Danish representative to make the Danish desire that resume discussions about further sanctions against the Iranian regime completely clear.
Already tomorrow, I will raise the issue of Iran’s unacceptable behavior when I will be meeting my Nordic colleagues in Oslo.
I would also like to add a comment to the information disclosed by the head of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service made public today: Danish authorities are, naturally, paying attention to whether members of the group ASMLA have violated the Criminal Code. For example by expressly approving the terrorist-attack in Ahwaz. That is under investigation by the police and the Danish Security and Intelligence Service. That cannot be allowed to take place in Denmark. In Denmark, we condemn all kinds of terrorism – regardless of who is behind. Both the Prime Minister and I have made ourselves quite clear on this issue before.
Over the next few days, the the government will be assessing the situation. We have already taken the first steps today. I will not rule out that we will take more. And at this point, I will not rule out further steps in advance.
However, we are also convinced that in handling this case, it will have the greatest impact if we can act together with our like-minded partners in the EU.
That is why we discuss the case closely with our partners and allies, before we take new decisions and, possibly, take additional steps.
I am grateful that we have already seen such a strong signal of support for Denmark today from the US and UK governments among others. That means a lot for Denmark.
Finally, I would like commend the Danish Security and Intelligence Service for its work. Huge efforts have been put into unravel this case. That makes Denmark a safer place. By the way, this case also shows how vitally important it is for Denmark to cooperate with like-minded countries. Not only in diplomacy, but, indeed, also among intelligence agencies