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EU leaders to discuss Iran sanctions following retaliatory strike on Israel

April 17, 2024 at 2:53 pm

Flags in front of the EU Commission building are lowered to half-mast after the death of Jacques Delors, a former president of the European Commission, in Brussels, Belgium on December 28, 2023 [Dursun Aydemir – Anadolu Agency]

European Union leaders will meet on Wednesday to discuss stepping up sanctions against Iran after Tehran’s retaliatory missile and drone strikes on Israel. The attack was launched in response to an Israeli air strike on the Iranian Embassy compound in Damascus on 1 April, which killed two generals and several other Iranian officers. Nobody was killed in the Iranian attack, and there was minimal damage on the ground in Israel.

The EU’s 27 national leaders will hold a summit in Brussels as world powers try to prevent a wider conflict in the Middle East, more than six months into Israel’s military offensive against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, ostensibly to crush the Iran-backed Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas.

Israel has not said how it will respond to Saturday’s attack, but EU leaders have urged it to exercise restraint while signalling their readiness to tighten sanctions on Tehran. No sanctions against Israel have been mooted by any government or international organisation for its breach of international conventions by targeting the Iranian diplomatic compound. Nor, indeed, have any been proposed for Israel’s genocide, war crimes and crimes against in humanity in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem.

“The EU is ready to take further restrictive measures against Iran, notably in relation to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and missiles,” a draft statement said ahead of the EU summit, which is due to start at 1700 GMT.

The leaders will also “strongly and unequivocally” condemn the Iranian attack, reaffirm their commitment to Israel’s security and call on all sides to prevent further escalation, according to the statement seen by Reuters.

The bloc’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said on Tuesday that the EU would prepare to tighten its sanctions against Iran, and EU foreign ministers are due to continue the work on Monday. Borrell said several EU members had proposed expanding a sanctions regime that seeks to curb the supply of Iranian drones to Russia to include the provision of missiles and cover deliveries to Iranian proxies in the Middle East.

Some EU states have also proposed sanctions against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, but Borrell reiterated the EU’s position that the corps could be designated as a terrorist organisation only if a national authority in the EU found that the group had been involved in terrorist activity. The US and other Western governments hope new economic sanctions against Iran will help persuade Israel to limit the scope of its retaliation.

Analysts have said that Iran is unlikely to face dramatic US sanctions action because of worries about boosting oil prices and angering top buyer China.

Israel is expected to discuss its response to Iran at a meeting of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war cabinet, which includes centrist rivals as a unity gesture after the Hamas cross-border incursion on 7 October, since when Israel has killed 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza — most of them children and women — and wounded almost 75,000 others. Thousands more are feared dead under the rubble of their homes destroyed by Israel. Around 1,140 Israelis were killed on 7 October, many of them by tanks and helicopter gunships of the Israel Defence Forces. Around 240 were taken back to Gaza as hostages.

The Gaza conflict has exposed differences between EU countries, with some siding more with Israel and others more strongly criticising Israel’s conduct and highlighting the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza.

READ: UN: More than 10,000 women killed in Gaza