Israel praised the EU for widening its sanctions against Iran on Monday, as foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor heralded the latest economic measures for “not letting Iran off the hook”.
The latest sanctions, Europe’s most unequivocal statement to the Islamist Republic to date that time is not limitless for diplomacy, were “definitely an important step that sends the right and strong message to the Tehran regime,” Palmor added.
On the eve of their monthly meeting in Luxembourgt, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman had urged EU ministers to make the “right decision” on increasing sanctions, insisting that it was “critical” in order to “pass the right message, which is that the West has enough will and determination to stop the Iranian efforts to destabilise the world”.
Failure to act in this respect, he argued, “will bring us to the brink of a new reality similar to that which existed in the 1930s, when the West erred, and instead of strangling the Nazi regime at the outset, decided to compromise and appease Hitler”.
Despite apparently leaked reports by Israel’s foreign ministry suggested Sweden was planning to veto proposals to implement further sanctions on Iran, which would scupper it success which required unanimity from all 27 Council members, a new package of measures was approved, extending the reach of sanctions to including the shipping industry, as well as the export of materials to Iran that could be used in its contested nuclear and ballistic programs.
Israel’s fears of European inaction on Iran were likely to be alleviated by the general change in tone by Europe’s leaders on arrival in Luxembourg, as German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told reporters Iran was “still playing for time”. “We don’t see a sufficient readiness for substantial talks about the nuclear program,” he added.
Meanwhile his British counterpart William Hague’s assertion that pressure would mount on the regime “over the coming months unless negotiations succeed”, was further emphasised by Prime Minister David Cameron’s address to the annual dinner of the United Jewish Israel Appeal in London on Monday.
He refuted Iranian claims its nuclear programme was for purely peaceful purposes as “not remotely credible”. But, he insisted, sanctions had begun to work in slowing the nuclear development process, adding that “we need the courage to give these sanctions time to work”.
Another key ally of Israel in Europe, the Netherlands, declared it was “not acceptable that Iran still does not meet its international obligations”. “Until the moment that they do, we will have to continue to increase the pressure,” continued Dutch ambassador to Israel Caspar Veldkamp.
Despite increased assertiveness from individual European member states, EU foreign policy Catherine Ashton was more guarded in her statements at a press conference following Monday's meeting, insisting only that “if you belong to the international community and you’re part of a treaty, an agreement, you also have a responsibility to make sure it is upheld. And therefore, we do have that responsibility to put the pressure on, and the pressure is a way of saying we want you to comply, we want you to take your obligations seriously and we will continue that pressure”.
On arrival in Luxembourg, Ashton said it was imperative the international community proceeded “with the twin track approach: pressure to persuade Iran to come to the table, and the offers that we make about how we will release that pressure in return for Iran complying with international obligations. That's what the twin track approach is about and you need that.”