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Scorn and sympathy: EU politicians divided over death of Iranian President Raisi

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi listens to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Presidential palace in Ankara, Turkey, Jan. 24, 2024.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi listens to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Presidential palace in Ankara, Turkey, Jan. 24, 2024. Copyright Mert Gokhan Koc/AP
Copyright Mert Gokhan Koc/AP
By Tamsin Paternoster
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While European Council President Charles Michel expressed his condolences over the death of Iran's Ebrahim Raisi, not all members of the European Parliament were in agreement with his message of sympathy.

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The death of Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi and his Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian in a fog-enveloped helicopter crash on Sunday provoked a mixture of reactions from the West.

Among them, the European Commission's Copernicus Emergency Management Service, which provides geospatial data and imagery for disaster management, announced it would offer mapping services to assist in the search and rescue operation for Raisi. 

European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič clarified on X that the offer "was not an act of political support to any regime or establishment. It is simply an expression of the most basic humanity."

The EU press office released a statement offering condolences for the death of Raisi and Abdollahian. The sentiment was echoed by European Council President Charles Michel, who posted on X that the thoughts of the EU "go to the families" of those killed. 

Not all members of the European Parliament were in agreement with the expression of sympathy. 

Independent MEP Rob Roos called the expression of solidarity by the EU "an insult to the oppressed Iranian people." Swedish Democrat Charlie Weimers also criticised the actions of Copernicus, saying, "European taxpayer money should in no way be used to support the terrorist regime in Tehran."

Several others, including MEP Assita Kanko from the New Flemish Alliance, said they were "shocked" by the EU's expressions of solidarity.   

The European Union is one of many countries that have sanctions against the Iranian regime. These include trade restrictions, travel bans, and asset freezes.

In April, the EU agreed to a new round of sanctions in response to Iran's large missile attack on Israel, which it launched amidst soaring tensions between the two regional rivals.

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