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25th Feb 2024

EU should be 'part of the game' on Iran, Michel says

  • EU council president Charles Michel. 'I want Europe to be part of the game," he said, referring to the EU's role in the Middle East (Photo: Council of the European Union)

EU Council president Charles Michel on Thursday (9 January) urged Iran to comply with the 2015 nuclear deal in a phone call with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, and urged the EU to have a more assertive foreign policy.

"Just spoke with Hassan Rouhani about recent developments. JCPOA remains crucial for global security. I called Iran not to pose irreversible acts," Michel tweeted.

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Iran said on Sunday that it was stepping back from its commitments under the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), that was aimed to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

The EU's reinforced commitment to the deal comes as tensions spiked after the US killed Iran's key military operative Qassim Suleimani last week.

US president Donald Trump on Wednesday called on the senior players in the EU - France, German and the UK - to "break away from the remnants" of the Iran deal. The US already withdrew from the treaty in 2018.

The former Belgian prime minister defended the nuclear agreement while talking to journalists in Zagreb.

"The pact is not a perfect treaty, not a perfect agreement, but it's an agreement negotiated during more than 10 years. It means it is a channel for negotiations and a channel of communication," he said,

"That's why I had the occasion this morning to have a long discussion with president Rouhani to see how it is possible for the EU to play a stronger role in the region," Michel said.

"It is important for the EU not only to observer what the others would decide for us, but it is important for the EU to be a player, to promote and defend our interest, the stability and security," he added.

Michel said that "even when the US, our strong ally, took the decision to leave the JCPOA, we took the decision at European level to support this agreement, not because we think it is a perfect agreement, but because we think it offers a channel of communication in order to try to reduce the risks in the region".

Michel also told reporters he wants to the EU to play a stronger role in the Middle East.

He said he will be traveling to Turkey and Egypt for talks on Saturday.

Michel said maintaining several channels of communication is in the EU's interest to prevent more conflicts.

"I want Europe to be part of the game," Michel said, talking about the EU's role in the Middle East.

Michel has been quick to call for for de-escalation after the US decision to kill Suleimani.

The EU council chief's efforts come as the bloc aims to play a more assertive role, globally, between China, Russia and an increasingly unpredictable and protectionist US.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen described her new EU executive as "geopolitical" even though EU member states in the past have struggled to come to an agreement on foreign affairs issues.

Voicing his dissent, Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban told reports in Budapest on Thursday (9 January) he wants the European position on the US-Iran conflict to be more in line with that held by the US and Israel.

"I would like for the European stance, which is not clear on this Iranian issue, to be oriented towards the Israeli-United States stance," Orban said.

EU foreign ministers will meet on Friday to discuss the Iran crisis, aiming to ease tensions between Washington and Tehran.

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