By Middle East Affairs
France pressured the European Union on Monday to sanction Iran for its involvement in the Syrian civil war and its ballistic missile program, Reuters reports.
U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to pull the United States out of an international nuclear deal signed in 2015 under former President Barack Obama’s administration. The deal among the U.S., France, Britain, Germany, China, Russia and Iran was meant to curb Iran’s ballistic missile program in return for the lifting of sanctions, which have hurt its economy.
The United States is due to give a fresh relief waiver on May 12 for its sanctions against Iran, but Trump said if other countries in the deal don’t find a way to fix the “flaws” by that date, he will drop out.
In response, France, Britain and Germany have proposed new E.U. sanctions targeting Iran’s support for the Syrian government and Tehran’s ballistic missile program, according to a confidential document seen by Reuters.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters on arrival for talks with his E.U. counterparts that they were determined to ensure that the deal was respected.
“But we must not exclude (from consideration) Iran’s responsibility in the proliferation of ballistic missiles and in its very questionable role in the near- and Middle East,” he told reporters on the scene. “That must also be discussed to reach a common position.”
The confidential document cites “transfers of Iranian missiles and missile technology to Syria and allies of Tehran, such as Houthi rebels in Yemen and Lebanon’s Shi’ite Hezbollah,” according to Reuters.
Iran’s foreign ministry said the weapons are purely defensive and could not be negotiated.
“We were hopeful that after his recent visit to Tehran and negotiations with Iranian officials, he would understand the realities of the Islamic Republic’s defense policies,” Bahram Qasemi is quoted as saying in Fars news agency.
New sanctions would need the support of all 28 E.U. member states, but certain countries don’t want to complicate new business ties with Iran. For example, Reuters said Italy and Greece want to rebuild a business relationship that had once made the E.U. a top trading partner of Iran and its second biggest oil customer.