December 06, 2009
Austria-Iran Foreign Relations
Austria is a member of the European Union, which has condemned the Iranian nuclear enrichment program for its secrecy.  In 2003, the European Union backed an EU-3—Britain, France, and Germany— deal that promised political and economic cooperation to Iran in exchange for ending its nuclear enrichment projects. After the accord failed in 2005, the EU supported UN Security Council action against Iran and has supported all of the UNSC sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program. As part of the EU, Austria has supported Iran’s right to nuclear technology under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Austria has supported using dialogue to engage the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program, but Iranian Press TV quoted Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik stating on the sidelines of the UN conference in 2008 that “the International community is prepared for dialogue, but Iran must take the hand that is being extended. Austria also rejected separate EU sanctions against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program in October 2007. Unlike the EU-3—Britain, France, and Germany—Austria has identified itself as neutral on the nuclear issue; Austrian support for American policy towards Iran is among the lowest in the European Union. In February 2009, Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Austria, and Sweden opposed a list of additional stricter sanctions proposed by the EU3 against the Islamic Republic. 
Austria has resisted some American pressure to reduce bilateral trade ties and freeze assets of the Islamic Republic beyond UN and EU sanction requirements.  Particularly in the energy sector, Austria and some Austrian corporations have continued to cooperate with Iran. Austria’s large oil company, OMV, signed an agreement in April 2007 to produce liquefied natural gas from Iran’s South Pars oil fields, while Austria’s third-largest bank, Raiffeisen Zentralbank, is active in Iran. Austria also participated in the 14th International Oil, Gas, and Petrochemical Exhibition in Tehran in April 2009, holding one of the largest participations in the show. Austria has agreed – along with China, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand – to participate in Tehran’s May 2009 Iran’s Food and Hospitality Trade Fair, an annual event that aims to promote Iranian trade and economic exchange with countries and companies.
In November 2009, Iranian Managing Director of the Gas Export Company, Reza Kasaeizadeh, said the company is in talks with Austria’s OMV and a Germany energy company over possible joint cooperation in Iran. Kasaeizadeh said the three companies may cooperate in twelfth phase of developing the large South Pars gas field.
Austria’s relations with Iran have been affected by the sanctions against the Iranian nuclear enrichment program, nonetheless the two countries continue to have diplomatic relations despite these obstacles. According to the Iranian ambassador to Austria Ebrahim Sheibani, “the UN and EU sanctions against Tehran have not affected relations between the two countries.” In April 2009, head of the Iranian Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Mines Mohammad Nahavandian met with the Austrian Ambassador to Iran Michael Postle to discuss greater public and private sector cooperation. Ambassador Postle agreed that the private sector should play a major role in strengthening economic relations, adding that Austrian companies were prepared to share their experience with Iranian companies. Beyond diplomatic and economic relations, Austrian companies have also legally sold military equipment to Iran, including a large shipment of the Steyr HS50 sniper rifle in 2006. However, when these rifles were later discovered in the hands of Iraqi insurgents, Britain made an official complaint to Austria to end arms shipments to Iran.
In July 2009, Austria along with other EU member states summoned Iran’s ambassador to Vienna to voice the European countries’ disapproval of the arrest of several employees of the British Embassy in Tehran during the unrest following Iran’s June 2009 presidential election. Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, also commenting on the treatment of protesters during the unrest, stating in a July 2009 press release that Vienna "expect[s] Iran to put an end to its domestic policy crisis by democratic means and dialogue. We shall not tolerate the lack of respect for fundamental freedoms and the suppression of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly." The foreign minister lauded the EU’s collective summons of Iran’s envoys and indicated that further measures could be implemented if Iran continues “its provocations.”
In January 2010, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki met with former Armenian President Robert Kocharian. Mottaki later chaired the Iranian delegation to the 9th Tehran-Yerevan Economic Cooperation Commission meeting in Iran, while Armenian Minster of Energy and Natural Resources, Armen Movsisyan represented the Armenian side. Mottaki held talks with Armenian top officials on expansion of bilateral ties as well as regional and international developments.
In May 2010, Iranian Football Associations Spokesman Mohammad Sedeq Doroudgar announced that there are plans for a future friendly football match between Spanish and Iranian national football teams to be held in Austria. Doroudgar stated that “the friendly match is aimed at boosting sports ties between Iran and Spain.”