EU support grows for new Iran sanctions

European Union diplomats said there is growing support for imposing new sanctions on Iran as they seek to persuade President Donald Trump to stick by the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers.

No formal decision was taken during a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, and some countries aren’t convinced that adding sanctions will convince Mr. Trump, diplomats said.

Yet several people involved in Monday’s discussion said ministers were nearing political agreement that action should be taken.

“I think there’s a very broad majority among the European countries that we should look into the possibilities of going further regarding sanctions,” said Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said a move could come by May 12, when Mr. Trump has threatened not to extend sanctions waivers that were a critical part of the nuclear deal.

“It would be sensible to have that conversation in the context of trying to persuade Washington to stick with the nuclear deal,” he said.

Among the targets under discussion for new sanctions are members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, diplomats said. The U.S. has urged European allies to increase pressure on the Guard and to act against Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based Iranian proxy group.

France, the U.K. and Germany—which joined the U.S., Russia and China in striking the 2015 deal—are currently engaged in talks with Washington on strengthening elements of the deal, which sought to place strict but temporary restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program while lifting most international sanctions.

The three European governments are simultaneously pushing their EU partners to agree to new sanctions on more than a dozen Iranian entities and individuals, a move that U.S. officials have welcomed. Any decision would need backing from all 28 EU countries, most of which strongly back the nuclear agreement.

Until Monday, the sanctions discussions had moved slowly, with the EU’s big three meeting resistance from a number of countries, including Italy, about any steps that would discourage Iran from sticking by its nuclear commitments.

As a result, France’s initial expectations of wrapping up the sanctions package by the time President Emmanuel Macron visits Washington in late April likely won’t be met, diplomats said.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said earlier Monday that Europe will do all it can to protect the nuclear deal.

“If we can make a gesture that can go in the direction of appeasing the Americans, I think that this discussion will take place, he said.

Separately, diplomats involved in talks between U.S. officials and France, the U.K. and Germany say differences have narrowed significantly on ways to constrain Iran’s activities, although European officials close to talks acknowledge it’s not clear the work will eventually persuade Mr. Trump to stick by the deal.

The discussions have focused on three issues: containing Iranian work on long-range missiles, ensuring broad access to Iranian sites for United Nations inspectors and addressing the expiration under the deal of some limits on Iran’s nuclear work from 2026.

Iranian officials have warned European governments that fresh pressure could bring to an end discussions on regional tensions and make it less likely that Tehran would stick by the agreement if the U.S. pulls out.

Tehran says its missile program, which isn’t explicitly covered by the Iran deal, is necessary because of Western weapons sales to its regional foes, like Saudi Arabia. The Trump administration says Iran’s missile program advances could allow it to directly threaten western countries in future, as well as U.S. regional allies.

Last week, Mr. Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, told U.S. lawmakers he would make talks with the Europeans on what he called fixing the nuclear deal an immediate priority if confirmed.

Source » wsj

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