Tuesday

10th Dec 2019

EU countries turn screw on Iran

  • UN monitors have been given widespread access to control Iranian compliance with the nuclear arms deal (Photo: iaea.org)

EU countries have tilted toward hawkish US diplomacy on Iran, by blaming it for Saudi Arabia attacks and calling for wider disarmament talks.

"We condemn in the strongest terms the attacks on oil facilities on Saudi territory on 14 September ... It is clear to us that Iran bears responsibility for this," the leaders of France, Germany, and the UK said in a joint statement on Monday (23 September).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

"These attacks may have been against Saudi Arabia, but they concern all countries and increase the risk of a major conflict," they added.

Iranian missile strikes on Saudi facilities would represent the first direct territorial attack in modern times in a centuries-old rivalry between the Gulf powers.

The EU endorsement that Iran did the deed lent support for America's recent decision to send Iran-deterrent forces to Saudi Arabia.

The US has also threatened military action against Iran's nuclear facilities if it tried to build an atomic bomb.

The EU leaders voiced "continued commitment" to a UN-backed Iran non-proliferation pact, the increasingly-unravelling Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA).

Iran began violating JCPoA terms after the US walked out of the treaty and reimposed a Western ban on Iranian oil sales.

But France, Germany, and the UK urged Iran to unilaterally "reverse its [JCPoA] decisions".

They also endorsed the US line that "time had come" for wider Iran disarmament talks.

"Iran [ought] to accept negotiation on a long-term framework for its nuclear programme as well as on issues related to regional security, including its missiles programme and other means of delivery," the EU leaders said.

They spoke on the eve of the yearly UN general assembly in New York.

For his part, Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, was even more frank in saying that the JCPoA was up for renegotiation.

"If it was a bad deal - and I'm willing to accept that it had many, many defects - then let's do a better deal," Johnson told the NBC broadcaster in the US also on Monday.

"There's one guy who can do a better deal and one guy who understands how to get a difficult partner like Iran over the line and that is the president of the United States. So I hope that there will be a [Donald] Trump deal," Johnson added.

The EU had previously refrained from blaming Iran for Gulf region attacks.

It had also stuck to the JCPoA, quite doggedly, and is still preparing to a launch a new trade vehicle, called Instex, to handle Iran oil sales.

The EU's southern neighbourhood has for a long time been a ring of fire, with conflicts in Libya, Israel, Syria, and Yemen.

And the European leaders urged "de-escalation" on Iran via "sustained diplomatic efforts" with "all parties".

But for his part, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Zarif rejected Johnson's and any broader talk of a post-JCPoA accord.

The EU should stop "parroting absurd US claims and requests", Zarif said in response to Monday's European statement.

"No new deal before [EU and US] compliance with [the] current one," he also said, as Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, prepared to take the podium at the UN meeting in New York.

Opinion

Gulf tension making it harder for EU to save Iran deal

Europeans should also clarify that they are unwilling to tolerate restrictions on freedom of navigation or a further significant expansion of Iran's nuclear programme. Diplomacy can resolve the standoff over the captured British and Iranian tankers.

Human rights abusers to face EU blacklists

Human rights abusers worldwide will, in future, face EU asset freezes and travel bans under new-model sanctions agreed by foreign ministers in Brussels.

Guns blaze in Ukraine as leaders meet in Paris

Hundreds of explosions and bursts of small arms fire were reported on the contact line in east Ukraine, as France prepares to host the first peace summit on the war in three years.

Feature

Russia makes big promises to Arctic peoples on expansion

The Arctic future conference kicked off with optimistic presentations by ministers and officials of the Russian government — but also a burst of scepticism from representatives of those actually living in Russia's Arctic and Far East regions.

News in Brief

  1. Russia and Ukraine agree ceasefire by new year
  2. US deploys biggest army to Europe in years for training
  3. New 100km/h speed limit on Brussels ring road planned
  4. Orban wants bill to tighten grip over theatres
  5. Dutch reduce terror threat level for first time since 2013
  6. Russia banned from Olympics over doping scandal
  7. EU agrees future human rights sanctions
  8. Greens demand Zahradil conflict of interest probe

Magazine

EU diplomacy 2.0

MEPs on the foreign affairs committee ought to be like second-tier EU diplomats on the Western Balkans and Russia, according to its German chairman, but foreign policy splits could bedevil its work.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us