Iran hopes to promote ties with Belgium, Europe FM

Tehran, June 5 : The Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian expressed hope that the recent prisoner swap between Iran and Belgium could be an effective step to promote bilateral ties and Iran-Europe relations. Amir-Abdollahian made the remarks in a phone conversation with his Belgian counterpart Hadja Lahbib, according to a statement published on the Iranian Foreign Ministry's website. The Iranian top diplomat hailed the joint efforts made by the two sides that led to the successful exchange of the prisoners, saying Iran also welcomed a Belgian role in promoting "purposeful and effective" talks between Iran and European states based on mutual respect. Lahbib, for her part, thanked Iran for its cooperation in the resolution of the prisoners' issue, noting that given Iran's humanitarian move, a new horizon is expected to open up in bilateral ties, while promising her country would help further expand Iran-Europe relations. Hailing the conversation as "positive and fruitful," Amir-Abdollahian said on Twitter that Iran remained a "completely safe and attractive" destination for foreign tourists, noting there was no reason for Europeans to be arrested if they were not "exploited" by foreign security services. Iran released three men -- two with dual Austrian-Iranian nationality and one Dane -- on Friday in return for Iranian diplomat Asadollah Assadi as part of a swap in which Iran freed two prisoners, including a Belgian citizen, last week, Xinhua news agency reported. Assadi, who was transferred to Belgium in October 2018, was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a Belgian court in February 2021, after being accused of planning an alleged "attack" against the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organisation, which Iran designates as a terrorist group. The released Belgian citizen, named Olivier Vandecasteele, was arrested by security forces in Iran in February 2022 for "spying under the guise of an aid worker". Iran has arrested dozens of foreigners and dual nationals in recent years, mainly for espionage and security-related charges. /IANS


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