Tuesday

28th Mar 2017

Setbacks for EU diplomacy on Iran and Syria

  • Schmid (l), Ashton (c) and US secretary of state Hilary Clinton at the G8 meeting in Camp David, in the US in May (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Leaked letters show that EU mediation on Iran's nuclear programme is being bedevilled by time-wasting.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton is trying to organise a new round of talks on Iran in Moscow in her role as envoy for the "E3+3" group - France, Germany and the UK plus China, Russia and the US.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

But a letter by Ashton deputy Helga Schmid to Iranian diplomat Ali Bagheri dated 4 June indicates that Iran is only open to talks on protocol for the meeting instead of details on UN monitoring.

"Unfortunately, in [the previous talks in] Baghdad, Iran was not prepared to take up our suggestion to enter into discussions on the substance of the proposal," Schmid said in her note, leaked in The Guardian newspaper on Thursday (7 June).

"You and I had numerous phonecalls and long meetings toward this end. Now there is a need to engage seriously on issues of substance," she added.

For its part, Iran on Wednesday leaked a letter to the Mehr news agency accusing the EU of wasting time.

"The other side's delay in holding meetings between deputies and experts put into question their determination to hold positive negotiations in Moscow," Iran nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said in his note to Ashton.

A breakdown in the E3+3 talks raises the risk of an Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities in what could propel the region to war.

The Iranian problem is linked to Syria because Syrian President Bashar Assad is Iran's main ally against Israel and Western-backed Sunni Muslim powers such as Saudi Arabia.

An EU and UN-backed ceasefire crafted by UN envoy Kofi Annan unravelled on Thursday when Syrian soldiers fired at UN monitors trying to verify reports that Assad militia murdered 80 civilians in the village of Qubeir.

UN chiefs in New York on Thursday admitted the ceasefire is dead.

"I must be frank and confirm that the plan is not being implemented," Annan said.

Annan is trying to muster a new Syria "contact group" - involving China, France, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UK and the US as well as Iran - to persuade Assad to step down in return for immunity.

The idea was welcomed by Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin.

But the US and EU powers France, Germany and the UK want Russia and China instead to drop their veto on UN-level sanctions on Syria.

"I think that Iran is part of the problem in Syria at the present. There is no question that it is actively engaged in supporting the government in perpetrating the violence on the ground," the US envoy to the UN, Susan Rice, said.

The French foreign ministry on Thursday said Iran will not be invited to a Friends of Syria meeting - involving some 50 anti-Assad countries - in the French capital on 6 July.

"The Iranian regime until now has without fail supported Bashar Assad and the bloody repression of his people," foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told press.

EU sanctions on Iran peppered with exemptions

New sanctions on Iran could prove hard to enforce after EU countries peppered them with derogations to help Greece find alternate suppliers and to give Tehran-based embassies access to cash.

Analysis

Lukashenka: End of an era?

The political spring in Belarus ended just as the actual season began, but greater changes loom after 23 years of dictatorship.

News in Brief

  1. Uber pulls out of Denmark over new taxi-regulation
  2. EU court validates sanctions on Russia's Rosneft
  3. Luxembourg to team up with Ireland in Apple tax appeal
  4. EU majority against GM crops, but not enough to block them
  5. Turkish referendum voting starts in Europe
  6. Le Pen says she lacks election funds
  7. UN dinner for Cyprus leaders to restart stalled peace talks
  8. Nato moves summit forward so US can attend

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The Idealist QuarterlyCan Progressive Stories Survive Our Post-Truth Era? After-Work Discussion on 6 April
  2. ACCAG20 Citizens Want 'Big Picture' Tax Policymaking, According to Global Survey
  3. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  4. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  5. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  6. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  7. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  8. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  9. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  10. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  12. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans