French president calls for tougher sanctions against Iran as EU leaders gather for a summit – Metro US

French president calls for tougher sanctions against Iran as EU leaders gather for a summit

Belgium EU Summit
French President Emmanuel Macron, left, speaks with Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez during a reception at the Royal Palace prior to an EU summit in Brussels, Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (Olivier Hoslet, Pool Photo via AP)

BRUSSELS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday urged his European Union counterparts to ramp up sanctions against Iran as concern grows that its unprecedented attack on Israel could fuel a wider war in the Middle East.

Macron’s remarks came as EU leaders gathered in Brussels for a summit focused on the attack, as well as the war in Ukraine and ways to boost the bloc’s economic competitiveness.

“We need to adapt and expand them,” Macron said of sanctions the EU has already slapped on the Islamic Republic. He said new sanctions should target “those who are helping to produce the missiles and drones that were used during the attack.”

In a draft statement prepared for the meeting, the leaders are set to warn that “the EU is ready to take further restrictive measures against Iran, notably in relation to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and missiles.”

They would also call “on Iran and its proxies to cease all attacks and (urge) all parties to exercise the utmost restraint and to refrain from any action that may increase tensions in the region.” The statement, seen by The Associated Press, is a draft and could change.

Expanding the sanctions, though, is not a simple exercise. The EU has already targeted those responsible for making drones that Iran has sold to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has tasked his services with drawing up new measures.

The idea would be to expand the drone list to include missiles, although there is no evidence that Iran has sold missiles to Russia. Borrell said that proxy forces backed by Iran in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria could also be targeted with sanctions.

Some countries also want to slap sanctions on people providing Iran with the components to make drones, but such measures were already approved in July 2023. Borrell said his team would look at whether to expand the list of components, or develop ways to stop the sanctions from being circumvented.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said: “My position is that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard should be put on the sanctions list.” He said such action “would be a very important signal to give.”

That would pose legal challenges though. For the EU to be able to do that, Borrell said, a member country would have to provide evidence that the Revolutionary Guard Corps has been involved in acts of terrorism against it. For the moment, none have come forward.

The United States is also preparing new sanctions to target Iran’s missile and drone program and entities supporting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iran’s Defense Ministry, according to White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

The EU leaders are also expected to renew their call for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and the release of hostages, “as well as increasing humanitarian aid at scale to Palestinians in need.”

Tensions have mounted in the region since the start of the latest Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7, when Hamas and Islamic Jihad, two militant groups backed by Iran, carried out a devastating cross-border attack that killed 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapped 250 others. Israel responded with an offensive in Gaza that has caused widespread devastation and killed over 33,800 people, according to local health officials.

Russia’s two-year war in Ukraine is also on the agenda, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expected to address the meeting remotely. He has pleaded with allies for more Patriot missile systems.

“The most important in the short term are those Patriot systems because they can also shoot out the most advanced missiles from Russia which are now hitting the population centers,” said Dutch Prime minister Mark Rutte.

Since the full-scale invasion began in February 2022, Russia has captured nearly a quarter of Ukraine, which is outnumbered, outgunned and in desperate need of more troops and ammunition, as doubt increases about Western military aid. Zelenskyy said repeatedly Ukraine must bolster its air defenses and replenish its ammunition supplies amid Russian pushes along the front line.

EU Council President Charles Michel, who chairs the bloc’s summits, insisted in his invitation letter to leaders on “the urgency of intensifying our delivery of military assistance, notably air defense capabilities.”

Talks on Thursday will focus on how to bolster the EU’s competitiveness and improve the single market.

The leaders will discuss a proposal by former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta for an EU-wide effort to subsidize industry in response to the Biden Administration’s support for investment in environmentally friendly technology through the Inflation Reduction Act, and to China’s subsidies for electric cars and solar panels.

The European Commission and member countries asked Letta to draft the report last year amid widespread concern that the U.S. subsidies, which favor domestic production in the U.S., are drawing investment from Europe and threatening the loss of industrial jobs on the continent.

EU rules restrict government aid to companies to avoid distorting business competition across the bloc’s free trade zone.

One solution, Letta proposed, is to demand countries use a chunk of such aid for EU-wide projects instead of purely national ones.

The report also calls for better integrating the bloc’s financial markets so companies can raise money for new renewable energy projects from stock, bond and venture capital investors instead of relying mostly on bank lending. That is a longstanding idea that has progressed only slowly.

Any of Letta’s ideas would be taken up only after the June 6-9 EU parliament elections and the appointment of a new commission later this year.

AP Business Writer David McHugh in Frankfurt, Germany, contributed to this report.