Sweden-Iran Foreign Relations

June 28, 2010
Flag of Sweden (Available at Wikimedia Commons) 
Reaction to June 2009 Iranian Presidential Election:

Immediately following the June 2009 presidential elections, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt denounced the Islamic Republic’s reaction to protests, stating that the “people’s basic rights must be respected.”[1] Bildt later reiterated this position by urging Iran to allow peaceful protests.

In January 2010, following continued protests of the June 12, Iranian Presidential Election, a Swedish diplomat was arrested and accused of participating in Iranian protests.[2] The diplomat was released shortly thereafter. Iranian Parliamentary National Security Committee member Alaedin Boroujerdi told reporters that “based on the law and international norms, diplomats cannot be detained or arrested, but since this person was among those who were disturbing the peace, he was initially arrested but then he was released when it was determined he was a diplomat.”[3] The Swedish Foreign Office confirmed the arrest but said the diplomat was not taking part in demonstrations.[4]



The Chairman of the Swedish parliament's Foreign Policy Commission said in 2008 that Iran has a right to civilian nuclear technology. He also supported diplomatic means to find a solution to the issue that acceptable to both sides.[5] In 2007, Christofer Gyllenstierna, Swedish Ambassador to Iran, claimed that, because traders and businessmen ultimately make investment decisions in Sweden, economic sanctions will not affect Sweden’s trade with Iran.[6]  In February 2009, Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Austria, and Sweden opposed a list of additional stricter sanctions proposed by the EU3 against the Islamic Republic. [7]

In July 2009, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt insisted that dialogue is the only solution to the Iranian nuclear situation, saying that the European parliament faced difficult choices when world powers restarted talks with Tehran to halt Iranian uranium enrichment in exchange for political and economic incentives.[8]


Economic Relationship:

Christofer Gyllenstierna, Sweden’s Ambassador to Iran, said at a symposium in Tehran in 2007 that Sweden has potential markets in Iran. He also said that Iran’s capabilities and possibilities have attracted the attention of Swedish businesses. He claimed Sweden planned on increasing mutual trade cooperation with Iran.[9] In 2003, Sweden and Iran signed a Memorandum of Understand (MoU), in which Sweden recommended Iran be given membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and, in turn, Sweden would implement industrial, mining, and telecommunication projects inside Iran.[10] Since the UN Security Council and the European Union began imposing stricter sanctions, however, Swedish-Iranian bilateral trade has declined. Bilateral trade between the two reached only $500 million in 2007.[11]

[Click here for more information on Sweden’s business relationship with Iran.]


Diplomatic/Military Relationship:

In June 2009, the Swedish ambassador to Iran was summoned to a meeting by the Iranian Foreign Ministry after a group of 200 demonstrators attacked the Iranian embassy in Stockholm. Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, subsequently expressed his deep regret for the incident.[12] In June 2009, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hasan Qashqavi said, regarding the damage done to its embassy in Stockholm, that “it is natural that the Swedish government is responsible for financial and psychological damage caused to Iranian diplomats. It's their duty to compensate this damage.”[13] In July 2009, following Sweden’s assumption of the EU presidency, Sweden responded to the detention and trial of British Embassy in Iran employees, calling Iran’s actions “not acceptable.”[14]

Following an incident in July 2009 when three American hikers were detained by Iranian border guards for crossing over the border into Iran, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt made overtures on the behalf of the hikers, warning Iran against using the three US nationals as political leverage.[15]  

In January 2010, the Israeli and Iranian tourism ministers were introduced by the Spanish king at a reception hosted in Madrid and the two shook hands. Shortly after these reports, however, Iranian Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization denied any such gesture stating that “the rumor, with certain aims, about a meeting between Iran and the occupying regime’s (Israeli) officials is a baseless rumor based on the imagination of an ill-minded British media.”[16]

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.” 

In May 2010, protestors staged a demonstration at the Iranian embassy in Stockholm.[17] The protests were in response to recent executions of five Kurdish-Iranians, in particular, and, more generally, the use of the death penalty in Iran.[18] As more protesters arrived, the demonstration began to turn violent when about 100 people tried to storm the embassy.[19]


[1] “Bildt: ‘Situation in Iran All the More Alarming” SVD, June 18, 2009.
[2] “Swedish Diplomat Arrested, Released in Iran,” CNN, (January 10, 2010)
[3] “Swedish Diplomat Arrested, Released in Iran,” CNN, (January 10, 2010)
[4] “Swedish Diplomat Arrested, Released in Iran,” CNN, (January 10, 2010)
[5] “Sweden Reiterates Iran's N. Rights” Fars News Agency, May 8, 2008.
[6] “Sweden Envoy: Iran, A Good Market For Swedish Investment”, IRNA, May 1, 2007.
[7] Dinmore, Guy, Najmeh Bozorgmehr, and Alex Barker, “EU Trio Targets Tougher Iran Sanctions,” Financial Times, February 25, 2009
[8] “Bildt: EU faces ‘difficult choices’ on Iran’ The Local, July 9, 2009.
[9] “Sweden Envoy: Iran, A Good Market For Swedish Investment”, IRNA, May 1, 2007.
[10] “Iran, Sweden Sign Memorandum of Understanding”, IRNA, December 16 2003.
[11] International Monetary Fund, Department of Trade Statistics, (November 13, 2008)
[12]  “Iran Summons Sweden’s Envoy In Tehran,” Press TV, June 27, 2009
[13]  “Iran Says Sweden Should Compensate Damage Caused To Embassy,” Islamic Repbulic of Iran News Network Television, June 29, 2009
[14] “EU May Recall Envoys To Iran Due To UK Embassy Arrests,” Jerusalem Post, July 4, 2009, (July 4, 2009)
[15] “Hikers Are Key to Iran’s Image,” Wall Street Journal, (December 29, 2009)
“Iran Charges Three American Hikers With Espionage,” CBS5, (November 9, 2009)
[16] “Iran Denies Handshake Report with Israeli Official,” Reuters, (January 21, 2010)
[17] “Violent Protests at Two Scandinavian Iranian Embassies,” CNN, May 13, 2010, (June 28, 2010)
[18] “Violent Protests at Two Scandinavian Iranian Embassies,” CNN, May 13, 2010, (June 28, 2010)
[19] “Violent Protests at Two Scandinavian Iranian Embassies,” CNN, May 13, 2010, (June 28, 2010)