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Australian diplomacy embarrassed by detention of three of its nationals in Iran


Canberra has confirmed the arrest of a couple of Australians by the Islamic Republic, which has already held for eleven months one of their compatriot. The government remains discreet about this affair, while participating in a mission to secure the Strait of Hormuz.

An undated academic portrait of Kylie Moore-Gilbert, detained in Iran for several months. FAMILY HANDOUT / AFP

It is the flyover of Iranian landscapes by a drone to post pictures on their travel blog that is worth to a couple of Australians to be detained by the Islamic Republic. They have joined a third Australian national, confirmed this week the Australian Foreign Ministry.

The Australian government remains particularly secretive about these detentions, in a climate of tension in the Gulf where it participates in a maritime mission to secure the Strait of Hormuz, alongside the United Kingdom and the United States - at the request of these last.

"These are still very sensitive cases that are never well served by public comment," commented Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday (September 12th) about the detentions. "We will continue to monitor these cases in the interest of the Australians involved," he said, urging caution.

Read also Canberra announces that three of its nationals have been arrested in Iran

For the last two years, Mark Firkin and Jolie King have been telling each other on social media about their journey to connect Perth to London aboard their 4x4. Followed by more than 24,000 subscribers on Instagram, their last picture posted on the platform dates back to eleven weeks: their white Landcruiser crossing a valley of Kyrgyzstan. Australian media reports that the couple was arrested in July in Tehran for stealing a drone without permission.

Consular assistance

The identity of the third detainee was confirmed by his family on Saturday morning, a statement from the Australian Foreign Ministry said. It is Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Australian woman also of British nationality, like Mrs. King, a Cambridge University professor and a lecturer in Australia. Her arrest dates back more than eleven months, well before the deployment of an Australian ship in the Strait of Hormuz, she has since been sentenced to ten years in prison. The nature of the charges against her is not known.

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne assured the Australian Parliament Thursday that she spoke about the fate of the three prisoners on several occasions with her Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif. In particular, it demanded that all three be "treated humanely, fairly, in accordance with international standards" , and specified that they had consular assistance.

The head of diplomacy has swept that these detentions may be motivated by tensions in the Gulf. "We have no reason to believe that these arrests are related to international concerns about the Iranian nuclear program, the implementation of UN sanctions or the safety of maritime traffic," said the minister.

An "aggressive" signal

For Professor Shahram Akbarzadeh, lecturer on Middle East and Central Asian politics at Deakin University (Sydney), the link is "obvious" with Australian involvement in the Strait of Hormuz, a signal "Aggressive" , according to him. "The Australian decision to deploy a vessel in the Persian Gulf is ultimately marginal but symbolic: Australia sends the message to Iran that it supports the United States and is ready to engage militarily in the Gulf if necessary, "he explains.

While the Australian authorities are working in the shadows to try to free them, Professor Akbarzadeh underlines the difficulty for Canberra to manage the situation, because of the nature of the Iranian regime. "The situation can be reversed tomorrow. A release is possible if there is a major incentive , "he observes. French President Emmanuel Macron's attempts to mediate between Washington and Tehran may weigh in the negotiations, he argues, while Australia, closely linked to the US, does not have many levers of influence. "Australia will need other powers like France or the United Kingdom, or regional support, such as from Oman, Qatar or Kuwait, to help and intervene," the academic suggests.


Source: lemonde

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