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Let’s not forget Gaza’ says Borrell after Foreign Ministers discuss Israel-Iran crisis

EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs have held an informal video teleconference to discuss the latest developments in the Middle East in light of the recent attack with drones and missiles against Israel from Iran, writes Political Editor Nick Powell.

After the videoconference, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell stressed that the informal ministerial discussion showed the EU’s unity in its strong condemnation of the Iranian attack, its commitment to Israel’s security, its willingness to avoid further escalation, and in the call on all sides to show restraint.

The High Representative said he wanted to use the same words that the Secretary General of the United Nations had used, that “‘the region is at the edge of an abyss, and we have to move away from it”. Mr Borrell added that the ministers had taken a strong stance, asking all actors in the region to move away from the abyss, in order not to fall into it.

He confirmed that work in the coming weeks will focus on increasing the EU’s outreach with all key partners in the region and beyond, and on restrictive measures. This may entail expanding the scope of the existing regime targeting Iran’s military support of Russia’s war against Ukraine. That is a response to the delivery of Iranian drones to Russia and it could be extended to cover drone deliveries to Iranian proxies in the Middle East. Future deliveries of Iranian missiles to Russia could also be included, though it’s not thought that any have been sent so far.

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When it came to calls for EU action against Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, by declaring it to be a terrorist organisation, the next steps would have to come from the EU’s member states. Their national authorities would have to produce evidence of terrorist activity.

“Let’s not forget Gaza”, Josep Borrell added, pointing out that there is no possibility to build enduring peace in the region if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not resolved. For this reason, he said the EU must continue to work towards an immediate and sustainable ceasefire, the release of hostages by Hamas, and addressing the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza.

He observed that if Israel had wanted to make Gaza a place where human life was impossible, they had succeeded in the north of the territory. So he failed to see how 1.7 million people now all in the south could next be told to go there.

He has now travelled to the G7 Foreign Ministers’s conference in Italy but he expected the crisis in the Middle East to again be discussed at a long-scheduled meeting of the EU’s Foreign and Defence Ministers on Monday. Indeed, such a discussion is a certainty when they meet with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The crisis is also certain to be discussed again before then, when heads of government gather for a European Council.

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