KLM suspends service to Tehran, delivers further blow to Iranian economy

Royal Dutch Airlines announced on Saturday that it will suspend its direct flights to Tehran, delivering another blow to Iran’s struggling economy.

The Dutch airline KLM said in a statement: “As a result of the negative results and financial outlook for the Tehran operation, the last flight will take off from Amsterdam on September 22, 2018 and land at Schiphol on September 23.”

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The timing of the airline’s announcement coincided with a major diplomatic spat between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Netherlands.

Tehran summoned the Dutch ambassador and the Islamic Republic protested the deportation of two Iranian diplomats in the Netherlands, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by IRNA – Iran’s state-controlled media outlet – on Saturday. The Dutch government declined to cite the reasons for the expulsion of the Iranian diplomats.

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A European government official and a Western intelligence source said on Friday that the expulsions of two Iranian embassy staff occurred up to two months ago.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi did not say when the ministry’s meeting with the Dutch ambassador took place. He said the deportation of Iranian diplomats was “unfriendly and nonconstructive” and that Iran has the right to take reciprocal measures.

Meanwhile, other European transportation companies are starting to abandon Iranian markets ahead of US sanctions.

“Due to the Trump administration, we have decided to end our service for Iran,” the French shipping group CMA CGM chief Rodolphe Saade said during an economic conference in the southern French city of Aix-en-Provence on Saturday.

The US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, requested in June that the German government block Iran’s Mahan Air from flying within German airspace and deny it landing rights in the country because of the airline’s material support for terrorism.

Reuters contributed to this report.