EU toughens sanctions on Iran and Syria
The EU Foreign Ministers tightened sanctions against Syria and Iran at their meeting in Luxembourg on 15 October. Another important topic at the Foreign Affairs Council was the situation in Mali. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Minister of State Michael Georg Link represented Germany at the meeting.
Enlarge image Westerwelle and EU High Representative Ashton (© picture-alliance/ dpa) At the start of the talks in Luxembourg, Westerwelle said he was “deeply concerned about the recent critical developments at the border between Turkey and Syria.” Just this past weekend he had visited Istanbul to reaffirm Germany’s solidarity with Turkey. He also commended the level-headed stance of Syria’s government, adding that efforts must be made to ease the tension.
As a response to the repression and violence directed towards civilians in Syria, the EU Foreign Ministers also agreed on travel bans for 28 further leading members of the Assad regime. At the same time, their assets in the EU were frozen. More than 180 individuals and 50 Syrian institutions and companies are now subject to bans on travelling and doing business in addition to having their accounts frozen. For the first time, the ministers also banned the state-owned Syrian Arab Airlines from landing anywhere in Europe.
Providing for Syrian refugees
In reference to the more that 300,000 people who have fled from Syria to neighbouring countries, Westerwelle said that Germany was in principle willing to take in refugees, to provide medical treatment, for example. However, he said this must take place in a “European context” and “in consultation with the United Nations”. The focus must be clearly placed on providing for the refugees where they are, he went on, because they did not want to leave their country permanently. In their council conclusions the EU Foreign Ministers held out the prospect of further assistance for Syrian refugees.
Pressure on Iran
Enlarge image With the Foreign Ministers of France and Great Britain (© picture-alliance/ dpa) The EU is also tightening sanctions against Iran. The EU Foreign Ministers agreed on a package of new measures, aimed mainly at the country’s financial services and trading sectors as well as the oil industry. Among other things, payments between European and Iranian banks were prohibited. The EU also banned the export of certain metals and software to Iran and the import of natural gas from the country. Continuing doubts about the exclusively civilian and peaceful character of Iran’s nuclear programme are behind this decision. The country’s talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have not produced results; IAEA inspectors have not been granted access to critical nuclear facilities.
Foreign Minister Westerwelle said that the new sanctions were necessary because Iran “has not budged on any of the crucial issues”. At the same time, Iran could still take up the offer of talks with the E3+3 countries (Germany, France, Great Britain, China, Russia, the United States and EU High Representative Ashton).
Monitoring the situation in Mali
Enlarge image Tuareg rebels in Mali (© picture-alliance/ dpa) The difficult situation in the West African country of Mali was also a topic at the EU Foreign Affairs Council. Since a coup against former President Amadou Toumani Touré last March, the country has been in a severe crisis. Islamist forces and Tuareg groups have used the chaos following the coup to take control of large parts of the north of the country. Foreign Minister Westerwelle said that Europe’s security was threatened when “terrorism finds a safe haven” there.
On 12 October, the United Nations Security Council in New York adopted Resolution 2071 (2012) on Mali. The resolution calls for the Secretary-General to provide military and security planners to support the joint planning by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) for the deployment of an international military force. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is to present a report on the implementation of the resolution to the Security Council by the end of November.On this basis, the EU is considering what assistance it can provide to support ECOWAS and the AU. EU High Representative Catherine Ashton is to present a concept of operations by 19 November. The German Foreign Minister said that it was right to assist in bringing new stability to the north of Mali by training African forces. Africa itself must however play the more important role, he said.