Reuters: EU foreign ministers are expected to agree on an oil embargo against Iran and a freeze on the assets of its central bank at a meeting scheduled for Monday, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said.
By John Irish
PARIS, Jan 19 (Reuters) – EU foreign ministers are expected to agree on an oil embargo against Iran and a freeze on the assets of its central bank at a meeting scheduled for Monday, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said.
France has led calls for the new sanctions to press Iran to halt its nuclear programme as talks between Iran and six world powers – the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – have reached stalemate.
“On Monday, at the EU foreign ministers meeting we will be able to come to an agreement on a sanctions package in these two areas,” Juppe told reporters on Thursday after meeting his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd.
EU diplomats have said that member governments have agreed in principle to freeze Iranian central bank assets alongside the planned oil embargo, but had yet to agree how to protect non-oil trade from sanctions.
France, Britain and the United States have ramped up pressure on Tehran after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expressed new concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme in late November.
Earlier, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu echoed comments from Russia and Iran that all sides were willing to resume talks, but Juppe was more sceptical.
“We have always said we are ready for dialogue,” Juppe said. “(EU foreign policy chief Catherine) Ashton has made concrete offers, but sadly until today Iran has not committed transparently or cooperatively to this discussion process.”
He added: “It’s for this reason that to avoid an irreparable military option we have to strengthen sanctions.”
Speaking alongside Juppe, Rudd said China and other countries still importing Iranian oil should bear in mind that world powers were determined to apply more pressure on Tehran to make it shift its position on uranium enrichment.
In response to this pressure, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has defended his country’s extensive oil imports from Iran, The world’s fifth-largest crude exporter.
“We would urge our friends in Beijing, (and) elsewhere in Asia, to reflect seriously on this,” Rudd said.
“We would urge them to be mindful of others in the international community seeking to bring about the pressure necessary to get change in the Iranian government’s position.”
Rudd said Australia, which had previously adopted parallel sanctions on Iran, would “reflect and act accordingly” following Europe’s new round of sanctions. “Iran continues to act with defiance leaving the international community with very few options,” he said. (Reporting by John Irish; writing by Daniel Flynn)