Iran Picks Veteran Arbitrator to Oversee Proceedings Against Israel

The National Iranian Oil Company has appointed a new arbitrator in proceedings it is pursuing against Israel, seeking billions of dollars in revenue generated by its investment in the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company, based on an agreement dating back to the regime of the Shah.

The legal campaign is taking place in Geneva. It has been running for the last 37 years, and is as far as is known the only official channel of contact between Iran and Israel.

The new arbitrator, whose appointment was finalized several months ago but not reported, is Dr. Mojtaba Kazazi, an international arbitration expert who has extensive experience in settling monetary disputes resulting from regime changes. The 70-year-old has lived in Europe for many years, but he was a judge in Tehran at the end of the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. After the Islamic revolution in 1979, he also represented Iran at the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal, which is based in The Hague.

He later became a legal adviser to the tribunal, and the head of the United Nations Compensation Commission in Geneva. He has taught at institutions of higher learning in The Hague and in Heidelberg in Germany and has been an adviser on arbitrations, in addition to being an arbitrator.

Kazazi replaced Mohsen Agha Hosseini, who conducted three similar arbitrations against the State of Israel and foreign straw companies controlled by Israel. Agha Hosseini, who enjoyed friendly and close working ties with several of his Israeli colleagues, died at the end of last year.

For the last five years, the arbitrator appointed by Israel in the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline case has been Alex Hertman, a lawyer and senior partner at the law firm of S. Horowitz & Co. Hertman succeeded Theodore Klein, one of the former heads of the CRIF, the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, who had been appointed by a French court. In other arbitrations with the Iranians, Israeli lawyer Avigdor Klagsbald was Israel’s appointment.

The Iranian oil company won two arbitrations against Israel, demanding compensation for oil supplied at the end of the Shah’s reign. Israel has refused to pay the award – more than a billion dollars – to what it considers an enemy country. The third, larger arbitration proceedings began in 1994 and are still pending after Israel managed to delay it for more than 20 years on procedural grounds. The original amount demanded by the Iranians in that case was $800 million.

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