EU says no to new sanctions against Tehran, wants to save nuclear deal

For EU foreign policy chief Mogherini, “We want to see the full compliance by all”. But no consensus exists on new sanctions among the EU’s 28 members. Iran’s role in Syria remains an issue. Rouhani insists that his country does not have aggressive intentions, that its weapons are defensive, and that it wants negotiations to solve problems.

Tehran (AsiaNews) – European Union foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg this week strongly defended the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed with Iran, thus rejecting new US sanctions against Tehran for its role in the Syrian conflict.

"There is no consensus at the moment on the fact that these measures would be useful in this moment or appropriate in this moment," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said after the Monday meeting.

She added that further consideration on how to deal with Iran's role in Syria "will happen in the coming days or weeks.”

The United Kingdom, France, and Germany tried to get the EU's 28 foreign ministers to support expanding sanctions against Iran over its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose forces have allegedly used chemical weapons in a recent attack.

After years of embargo, Western economic sanctions against Iran were eased in 2015 in exchange for a deal over the country’s controversial nuclear programme, a move that was largely welcomed by the international community.

However, the United States – and critics of the deal, especially Israel – have continued to back sanctions against Iran over its ballistic missile programme and its support for armed Shia movements in places like Yemen and Syria.

On 12 January, US President Donald Trump extended the suspension of a series of sanctions against Iran for another 120 days but stressed that it would be "the last time".

Any decision to reimpose sanctions would effectively kill the JCPOA. Tehran has in fact repeatedly said that it does not intend to accept additional obligations with respect to those already signed.

For Mogherini, the goal is "to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran. We want to see the full compliance by all to all commitments included in the deal”. At the same time, the EU will continue to closely monitor Iran’s behaviour, and plans to maintain sanctions already in place.

The sanctions, which consist of travel bans and asset freezes against 82 people and one entity, were first put introduced in 2011. They also include a ban to export equipment to Iran that might be used for internal repression as well as equipment for monitoring telecommunications.

For his part, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that his government "does not intend any aggression" against its neighbours.

"We tell the world that we will produce any weapons that we need, or if necessary we will procure them. We have not been waiting... and will not wait for your remarks or agreement," Rouhani said at a military parade in Tehran to mark the annual Army Day. 

The United States and its allies have been demanding that Iran curb its ballistic missile programme, but Tehran sees it as crucial to its defensive posture. 

"We want friendly and brotherly relations with our neighbours and we tell them that our weapons, our equipment, our missiles, our planes, our tanks are not against you, it is for deterrence," said Rouhani.

"The only way to resolve problems is political negotiation and peaceful behaviour," he added.