By Sabine Siebold
The European Union on Monday slapped additional sanctions on Iran, targeting 29 individuals and three organisations, in response to what it has condemned as Tehran’s widespread use of force against peaceful protesters.
“We stand with the Iranian people and support their right to protest peacefully and voice their demands and views freely,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.
The protests, triggered by the Sept. 16 death of Mahsa Amini in morality police custody, mark one of the boldest challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution. So far, 341 demonstrators have been killed in the unrest and more than 15,800 detained, according to the activist HRANA news agency.
Among those sanctioned with travel bans and asset freezes are four members of the squad that arrested Amini, high-ranking members of the Revolutionary Guards and Iran’s Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi, according to an EU statement.
The sanctions are meant “to send a clear message to those who think they can suppress, intimidate and kill their own people without consequences,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters as she arrived for a meeting with her EU counterparts in Brussels.
“They cannot,” she added. “The world, Europe is watching.”
In a first round of sanctions in October, the EU imposed travel bans and asset freezes on 15 Iranian individuals and institutions linked to the young woman’s death and the clamp-down on protests.
Russia’s war in Ukraine was another major topic of the discussions in Brussels as the EU formally launched its military assistance mission to Ukraine which aims to train some 15,000 Ukrainian troops.
The training, conducted on EU territory, will include ongoing efforts by several member states to prepare Ukrainian troops for the use of Western weapons sent to Kyiv.
So far, the EU and its member states have provided weapons and military equipment worth at least eight billion euros ($8.27 billion) to Ukraine, Borrell said, adding this amounted to about 45% of what the U.S. has supplied to Kyiv.
Reacting to speculation that the West may nudge Kyiv to enter negotiations with Moscow, Borrell told reporters the decision on talks was up to Ukraine, echoing similar comments made earlier by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis urged his counterparts to assure Ukraine of their unwavering support in light of what he called “unhelpful” speculations, saying he was worried Russia might use them to drive a wedge into the EU.
“Maybe … the ministers can agree on the position that peace in Ukraine can only come under Ukrainian terms,” he said, while accusing the EU of moving too slowly on a ninth package of Russia sanctions.
Referring to the latest tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, Borrell spoke of the “most serious and most dangerous crisis” of the last ten years and said the withdrawal of Serbs from Kosovo institutions had created a vacuum in north Kosovo.
“In this vacuum, the worst can happen, so both sides need to show more flexibility”, he warned, urging both parties to make progress in solving their differences.