European Leaders Gather to Discuss Iran & Libya

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AFP) — The foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany and Italy and the EU diplomatic chief will hold talks in Brussels Tuesday on the Iran and Libya crises.

The British foreign ministry said the talks would cover the fallout from the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general as well as Tehran’s latest step back from the 2015 nuclear deal.

The situation in Libya, where strongman Khalifa Haftar’s forces have seized the coastal city of Sirte, is also on the agenda.

The emergency meeting comes as the EU scrambles for ways to contain the growing tensions in two major flashpoints on its periphery, as Iran threatens revenge for the assassination of Qasem Soleimani in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad on Friday.

British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab will hold a one-on-one meeting with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, who has warned Iran against retaliating for Soleimani’s death, before joining the German and Italian ministers for talks on Libya.

“The foreign secretary is traveling to Brussels today for talks with his European counterparts on the situation in the Middle East following the death of Soleimani and on the escalating conflict in Libya,” the British foreign ministry said.

“The E3 will then meet to discuss the tensions between the U.S. and Iran with all three pushing for de-escalation,” it added, referring to Britain, France and Germany as the three European signatories of the Iran nuclear deal.

“The talks will also cover the nuclear deal following Iran’s latest announcement on Sunday that it is withdrawing from further commitments in the deal.”

Timings for the meetings have not yet been announced.

European powers on Monday criticized Iran’s latest announcement that it was cutting its commitments under the nuclear deal, which has been steadily unraveling since President Trump withdrew and reimposed sanctions in May 2018.

But the possible repercussions from Friday’s targeted killing of Soleimani — the key player in Iran’s network of alliances and proxy groups around the Middle East — will be a more pressing concern.

The U.S. drone strike at the Baghdad airport took Washington’s allies by surprise, and NATO held an urgent meeting of its ruling council on Monday to hear from U.S. officials and discuss the future of the alliance’s training mission in Iraq.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke to Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi on Tuesday to say the alliance remains committed to the fight against the Islamic State group and would resume training activities — suspended after Soleimani’s death — as soon as security improves.

In Libya, Haftar’s capture of Sirte raised tensions as Turkey said it was deploying troops to the country to protect the UN-recognized Government of National Accord.

The oil-rich North African country has been plunged into chaos since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned Monday that more intense fighting could soon break out around Tripoli and called for a political solution to the crisis.

The new European Commission has vowed to take on a more “geopolitical” role but the EU often finds itself hamstrung on foreign policy by internal differences and it took three days for President Ursula von der Leyen to issue a statement on Soleimani’s killing.

© Agence France-Presse

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