Sunday

14th Apr 2024

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

Get the EU news that really matters

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.

Interview

EU should use 'all means' to end war in Gaza: Belgian minister

The EU should use "all means" possible to end the violence in Gaza, including sanctions, a peace conference, and a review of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, Belgian development cooperation minister Caroline Gennez told EUobserver.

Interview

EU should use 'all means' to end war in Gaza: Belgian minister

The EU should use "all means" possible to end the violence in Gaza, including sanctions, a peace conference, and a review of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, Belgian development cooperation minister Caroline Gennez told EUobserver.

Opinion

The Bolsonaro-Orbán far-right nexus

Defeated far-right Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has given various reasons for sheltering at the Hungarian embassy in Brasilia — none of them make sense.

Latest News

  1. UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'
  2. Belgium declares war on MEPs who took Russian 'cash'
  3. Brussels Dispatches: Foreign interference in the spotlight
  4. Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation
  5. Resist backlash on deforestation law, green groups tell EU
  6. China's high-quality development brings opportunities to the world
  7. Ukraine tops aid list again, but EU spending slumps
  8. Who did Russia pay? MEPs urge spies to give names

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us