The Estonian men's tennis team's upcoming Davis Cup match away in Iran has been cast into doubt. With the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs advising against all travel to Iran, the Estonian Tennis Federation (ETL) has appealed to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for a change of venue.
"In view of the situation in Iran, the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises against traveling to the country. Therefore, we consider it extremely risky to send our team to compete in Iran," wrote Tarvi Pürn, deputy undersecretary for sports at the Estonian Ministry of Culture, in an appeal to the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
"We encourage the ITF, in close cooperation with the Estonian Tennis Federation (ETL), to look for alternative venues," Pürn said.
Head of the Estonian Tennis Federation Allar Hint told ERR's Russian-language news portal that the ETL has been in contact with the ITF about moving the tie.
"I very much hope that it will happen, but the phone calls, which have taken place so far have not been very optimistic," Hint said. "That's one side of things. And the other side is that in reality, it's going to be decided by the Davis Cup Committee, which is due to meet in a week or so."
Hint added that the ETL has also been in contact with the Iranian Tennis Federation. "They think everything is okay. The ITF has its own security measures, which they have to follow for different countries, depending on the level of security and they think everything is within the rules and there is no danger."
Asked whether the Estonian team would withdraw from the match if the Davis Cup Committee rules that it has to be held in Iran, Hint said that the question was still to be resolved. He added that the Estonian is prepared to play the tie on neutral ground or to host it in Estonia
"I think all options are on the table at the moment. I would rather wait for the [committee's] decision. It's not as if we can directly force anyone to go there. At the end of the day, it's up to everyone to decide whether they are prepared [to do that] or not. On top of that, there are potential difficulties related to future travel. For example, the United States will no longer issue an ETA (an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)- ed.) if you have been to Iran," explained Hint.
"It's necessary to start talking to the players to see what their thoughts are and what the possibilities are of going there in the first place."
If Estonia still refuses to play in Iran, the ITF could hit the Estonian Tennis Association with a fine, Hint said. He was unable to say whether any other penalties would be possible.
According to the draw, which is organized by the ITF, the Iranian team are due to host Estonia in February in the World Group II play-offs.
The Estonian team qualified for the play-offs thanks to a successful performance at the Davis Cup Europe Group III tournament in Cyprus this June. Estonia defeated San Marino and Montenegro on route to the final, where they completed the job with a victory against Moldova.
According to its website, the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs currently advises against all travel to Iran.
Iran has been one of Russia's strongest supporters in its aggression against Ukraine, supplying Moscow with attack drones.
Editor: Michael Cole