Iran’s recent ballistic missile tests are not in violation of its nuclear deal and the European Union is not considering sanctions at this stage, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Monday (14 March), at the end of a Foreign Affairs Council which also saw the bloc’s 28 foreign ministers discuss fresh sanctions on Libya.
Mogherini however warned that last week’s missile tests, which Tehran insists are not aimed at developing nuclear weapons capability, could raise tensions in an already volatile region.
France had warned on Sunday that it risked new sanctions as a result of the tests, but Mogherini said that was a matter for the UN Security Council, which met to discuss the issue on Monday.
“This is indeed also in our view not a violation of the (nuclear deal) as such,” Mogherini said after meeting the foreign ministers of the 28 EU nations in Brussels.
“If there is a violation of UN Security Council resolutions, this should be discussed in the appropriate UN bodies and not necessarily in the European Union Foreign Affairs Council.”
Russia had earlier Monday said that it opposed any sanctions on Iran over the ballistic missile tests.
Mogherini said however that “we expect Iran to fulfil all its international obligations”.
She added: “The point is we all see this as a major problematic element when it comes to regional relations… this would increase tensions in the Middle East at a moment when tensions are definitely not needed.”
Mogherini announced earlier that she would go to Iran next month to build on the nuclear deal, which she played a key role in securing.
Mogherini last visited Iran in July shortly after world powers – Britain, China, France, the United States, Russia plus Germany – agreed to lift sanctions in return for Tehran accepting strict curbs on its nuclear programme.
“My next visit will take place on the 16th of April,” she said as she went into the foreign ministers’ meeting.
“We will discuss with the ministers on which grounds, on which issues and sectors to re-engage so as to reopen full relations” with Iran, she said.
Under the July accord, the lifting of the nuclear sanctions takes place progressively in line with Tehran meeting its commitments.
A key provision allows the sanctions to be restored or “snap-back” immediately if Iran is found in breach of the agreement.
Mogherini has been anxious to return to Iran to build on July accord momentum, both for the sake of bilateral ties but also in the hope of getting Tehran’s help in resolving the Syrian and other regional conflicts.
Meanwhile, she announced that the EU has started work on sanctions against Libyan figures who hold up agreement on a national unity government meant to bring peace to the war-torn country.
The United States and key European allies led by France warned on Saturday that those preventing Libya’s new unity government from moving quickly to take up office in Tripoli should be hit with punitive measures.
Mogherini said it was clear Libya needed a functioning government as soon as possible to
restore peace and begin reconstruction.
The EU was ready to “encourage and support” the new government, she said, adding: “We have also started our internal work to sanction individuals who obstruct this internal Libyan process.”
German deputy foreign minister Michael Roth said there was “no decision on sanctions today”, despite a call by French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on Thursday for a decision on imposing sanctions.
Libya descended into chaos after the 2011 NATO-backed ouster of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi, allowing extremists including the Islamic State group to gain a foothold in the once oil-rich country.
Since 2014, it has had two rival administrations after militia groups forced the government from Tripoli to seek safety in Tobruk in the east.
The UN brokered an agreement in December to set up a new government but lawmakers in Tobruk initially rejected it, only to then change their minds.
A European diplomatic source told AFP recently that EU sanctions – travel bans and asset freezes — would likely target Aguila Saleh, speaker of the Tobruk-based parliament, plus Nuri Abu Sahmein of the Tripoli-based General National Congress and its head Khalifa Ghweil.
The EU and Western powers have said repeatedly they will help any new government once it is in office to tackle both reconstruction and security.