Sweden has complained to Israel over a newspaper report which said the Nordic state had tried to block EU sanctions against Iran to protect powerhouse telecoms equipment maker Ericsson, the Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.
The report on Sunday, in daily Haaretz, quoted an Israeli Foreign Ministry official as saying Sweden wanted to prevent a European Union decision to impose further sanctions on Iran. The sanctions were eventually agreed on Tuesday.
Swedish Foreign Ministry spokesman Anders Jorle said the Israeli ambassador had been summoned on Monday.
“The reason was the somewhat odd comments from the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson,” he said. “We expressed our view on this and the reply was that they regretted the comments and that they were not an official Israeli position.”
Haaretz had quoted a Foreign Ministry official as saying that if Ericsson lost a deal in Iran then other business transactions, such as in China, could suffer.
Foreign Minister Carl Bildt on Monday said the comments were a smear on Swedish policy and were “entirely wrong”.
“They must have got this from their own fairy tale factory. Sweden and Israel may have different opinions in some matters but this isn’t the way to handle our dialogue,” he said.
Ericsson, the world’s biggest telecom equipment maker with three customers in Iran - MTN Irancell, MCCI and TIC - denied having new orders in the works in the country.
“That’s a lie, it’s wrong,” Ericsson spokesman Fredrik Hallstan said. “Since the sanctions against the financial sector came into force in 2010 we don’t take any new business in Iran. We are honouring existing contracts.”