EU leaders to discuss Iran sanctions following attack on Israel

By Thomson Reuters Apr 17, 2024 | 7:42 AM

By Jan Strupczewski

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union leaders will meet on Wednesday to discuss stepping up sanctions against Iran after Tehran’s missile and drone attack on Israel.

The bloc’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 the war between Israel and the Iran-backed Palestinian militant group 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.

“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 was 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 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 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 United States and other Western governments hope new economic sanctions against Iran will help persuade Israel to limit the scope of its retaliation.

But analysts have said Iran is unlikely to face dramatic U.S. sanctions action because of worries about boosting oil prices and angering top buyer China.

Iran launched the attack on Saturday in response to an April 1 strike on its embassy in Damascus which it blamed on Israel. Israel launched its military offensive in Gaza after Hamas’ deadly attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

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.

(Writing by Gabriela Baczynska, Editing by Timothy Heritage)