Sunday

29th May 2022

EU unready for Iran oil ban, Syria intervention

  • Bildt (l) and Juppe: Arab League observers in Syria maybe, Western troops No (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Crisis-hit Greece has said 'No' to an EU oil ban on Iran, causing relief among other member states. France, the most hawkish EU country on the Middle East, has also toned down ideas for outside intervention in Syria.

The developments took place at an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels on Thursday (1 December).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

EU ministers did heap extra sanctions on the two Shia Muslim allies, however.

In Iran, they blacklisted 37 people and 143 entities with links to either the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line or the Islamic Revolutionary Guards in a bid to discourage the building of nuclear weapons.

Reacting to the recent ransacking of the UK embassy in Tehran, EU countries spoke out in terms reminiscent of Nato's mutual defence clause. EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton quoted one minister who told the room: "An attack on one member state is an attack on us all."

The bloc also added 12 people and 11 entities to its Syria blacklist. The new measures will block Damascus from trading bonds, buying insurance, opening bank branches in the EU, buying oil and gas equipment and buying internet and phone snooping kit (an Italian firm was up until two weeks ago installing email interception equipment for Syrian intelligence in Damascus).

The two toughest options - an oil ban on Iran and international troops in Syria - are off the table for now.

Greece as late as 2010 bought just 16 percent of its oil from Iran and the rest from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Libya and Iraq. But it now relies almost 100 percent on Iran, as international oil traders shun it for fear of a national default.

France had proposed the Iran oil ban. But one EU diplomat said the Greek opposition was welcomed by many EU capitals: "People don't say it out loud. But there is an understanding oil sanctions would hurt the EU rather than hitting Iran where it hurts and would make oil cheaper for China."

Juppe ahead of Thursday's EU meeting had also floated the idea of creating "humanitarian corridors" shielded by international troops to help deliver aid - a proposal that could give a safe base of operations for the rebel Free Syrian Army.

On the day, during talks in Brussels with Arab League leader Nabil al-Arabi, a smaller idea emerged to send "international observers ... to assess the situation, to provide assistance to people."

Another EU diplomat noted that even this would require Syrian President Bashar Assad to first agree, or a UN Security Council resolution - a dim prospect given the veto wielded by Moscow, an ally of Damascus, in the UN body.

For his part, Sweden's Carl Bildt ahead of the EU meeting backed sending in Arab League observers. But he repeated three times in the space of five minutes that Western troops are out of the question: "There are no discussions on military action ... There are no plans for military action ... The military option is off the table."

EU countries preparing oil ban on Iran

A Greek official has indicated that Athens would back an oil embargo on Iran, setting the stage for a positive decision by EU countries at the end of the month.

France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

EU Commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis said on Tuesday that Poland's recovery plan could be approved within a week. This could also help unblock Warsaw's reluctance to agree to the tax deal.

Opinion

When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin

Neither Reagan nor Gorbachev achieved their goal at the famous Reykjavik summit of 1986. Despite that fact there are lessons that current leaders — particularly Vladimir Putin — could adopt from these two iconic leaders.

Opinion

Orbán's overtures to Moscow are distasteful and detrimental

Some Western European politicians are reviving the chimera of a negotiated settlement. None of this makes the current, half-hearted approach towards sanctioning Russia look better — nor does it shed any favourable light on the cravenness of Hungary's current government.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us