Monday, 27 Jan 2020 - 1 of Shevat, 5780

Extraordinary meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Brussels on Friday to discuss US-Iran crisis

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”EU will play its full role to seek de-escalation of tensions in the region,’’ says EU foreign policy chief.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that she will convene on Wednesday a special meeting of the Commission where Josep Borrell, who is also Vice-President of the EU Commission, ‘’will debrief on the outreach to different stakeholders related to developments in Iraq and beyond.’’

Asked about his opinion on the killing of Iranian General Soleimanin,  NATO cheif Jens Stoltenberg stressed that the drone strike had been a “US decision, not a decision taken by NATO” itself. However, he said the other 28 NATO members had repeated their longstanding concerns about Iran’s destabilising activities in the Middle East.

BRUSSELS—EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has convened an extraordinary meeting of EU Foreign Ministers on Friday in Brussels on the US-Iran crisis as tension is mounting following the killing of Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani, head o the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force,  in a US air strike in Iraq last week.

‘’I called an extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council with our Member States on Friday afternoon, 10 January, to discuss recent developments on #Iraq and #Iran. EU will play its full role to seek de-escalation of tensions in the region,’’ Borrell tweeted.

The crisis meeting was requested by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. “As Europeans, we have tried and tested and resilient channels of communication on all sides, which we must make full use of in this situation,” Maas said.

Tensions on the ground are mounting. On Monday, Iran announced that it would lift all limits on its centrifuge equipment used for the production of plutonium used for nuclear weapons. Borrell has voiced regret at Iran’s decision to further step away from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Borrell said Monday that the nuclear accord, which has been teetering on the brink of collapse since US President Donald Trump withdrew support, was “now more important than ever”.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell tweeted: ”I called an extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council with our Member States on Friday afternoon, 10 January, to discuss recent developments on #Iraq and #Iran. EU will play its full role to seek de-escalation of tensions in the region.”

The EU foreign affairs chief spoke on the phone to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during the weekend and issued a personal invitation to come to Brussels, but so far Iran has not responded to the invitation.

EU spokesperson on foreign affairs Peter Stano said there was “a lot of activity going on” from the bloc as it seeks to help defuse tensions.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that she will convene on Wednesday a special meeting of the Commission where Josep Borrell, who is also Vice-President of the EU Commission, ‘’will debrief on the outreach to different stakeholders related to developments in Iraq and beyond.’’

‘’This meeting on Wednesday will also serve as a platform to coordinate actions to be undertaken by Commissioners in the region and with partners related to their portfolios,” von der Leyen said.

‘’After recent developments in Iraq, now it is important to halt the cycle of violence so that one more action does not give rise to the next one, and instead space is again created for diplomacy,’’ she added.

‘’As tensions mount, Europe is talking to all those involved. In this context, the High Representative will convene the Foreign Ministers to a special Council meeting to activate all diplomatic channelsn’’ she said.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen: ‘’After recent developments in Iraq, now it is important to halt the cycle of violence so that one more action does not give rise to the next one, and instead space is again created for diplomacy.”

She continued, ‘’We are deeply concerned by Iran’s announcement that it will not respect the limit set by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) any longer. This announcement comes at a time of severe tensions in the region. From a European viewpoint, it is important for Iran to return to the nuclear deal. We have to convince Iran that it’s also in its own interest.’’

NATO on Monday convened an extraordinary meeting of its ruling North Atlantic Council to discuss the crisis — in particular on the future of its training mission in Iraq.

After the meeting, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg told journalists that Iran “should avoid further violence and provocations.”

“At the meeting today, allies called for restraint and de-escalation. A new conflict would be in no one’s interest, so Iran must refrain from further violence and provocations”, he said.

Asked about his opinion on the killing of Soleimani,  Stoltenberg stressed that the drone strike had been a “US decision, not a decision taken by NATO” itself. However, he said the other 28 NATO members had repeated their longstanding concerns about Iran’s destabilising activities in the Middle East.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: “We have recently seen an escalation by Iran, including the strike on a Saudi energy facility, and the shoot-down of an American drone.We are united in condemning Iran’s support of a variety of different terrorist groups.”

On the question whether any member states condemned the US actions, Stoltenberg responded that NATO member states showed their unity and their concern about Iran’s behaviour.

“We have recently seen an escalation by Iran, including the strike on a Saudi energy facility, and the shoot-down of an American drone.We are united in condemning Iran’s support of a variety of different terrorist groups,” he added.

 

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