Greece blasts Berlin for shunning plea for Turkey arms embargo – POLITICO

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ATHENS — Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias accused Germany of failing to live up to its leadership role in the EU by rejecting pleas from Athens to impose an arms embargo on Turkey.

“I really fail to understand Germany’s reluctance to use the enormous power of its economy to set a clear example to countries that they must obey international law,” Dendias said in an interview with POLITICO.

Against a backdrop of heightened tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, Greece has appealed to European partners in recent weeks to stop arms sales to Turkey. Athens argues such weapons could be used against two EU member countries, Greece and Cyprus, if there is an escalation of disputes over territorial waters.

Greece has specifically called on Germany not to allow the delivery of six Type 214 submarines ordered by Turkey. Athens argues the vessels would upset the balance of power in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Dendias noted the deal for the submarines dated back to 2009, when the Turkish government and its foreign policy were very different.

“I understand the financial issue, but I am sure Germany also understands the huge contradiction of providing offensive weapons to a country that threatens the peace and stability of two EU countries. This is the definition of the word contradiction,” he said.

Dendias said he did not understand why Greece should even have to raise the matter with Berlin “instead of Germany realizing by itself, from the checks and balances of its own system, that this is not compatible with its role in Europe.”

Greece and Turkey are both members of the NATO alliance, but with long-standing disagreements on a variety of issues, including sea boundaries. Their relationship has reached a low point in recent months.

Over the summer, the countries came close to a military conflict, as the the Oruç Reis, a seismic vessel owned by Turkey’s General Directorate of Mineral Research and Exploration, started research activities in disputed waters. Turkish and Greek naval flotillas faced off against each other for weeks. Turkey has been conducting research and drilling off Cyprus in recent months as well.

Germany has tried to play the role of the mediator, with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visiting Athens and Ankara several times to push for a restart of diplomatic talks. Chancellor Angela Merkel helped avert a potential conflict by calling both Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

But Greece has voiced dissatisfaction with what Dendias has branded a policy of “appeasement” pursued by Germany toward Turkey. Athens argues Germany should be firmly on the side of its fellow EU members, Greece and Cyprus.

Summit call

In the interview, Dendias called on EU leaders to send a clear message to Turkey at next month’s European Council summit. But he stopped short of explicitly demanding EU sanctions on Ankara.

He said Europe should give a “logical answer” to Turkey’s recent actions that would match European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s pledge to lead a “geopolitical” Commission.

Shortly before the last EU summit, the Turkish vessel returned home, and both sides agreed to restart talks. At the summit on October 2, EU leaders warned Ankara it could face sanctions over its activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, but refrained from taking any action — only for the Turkish ship to resume its mission a few days later.

This time around, Turkey has again signaled the ship will return to port in advance of the summit, saying its mission will last until November 29. The summit is scheduled to begin on December 10.

Dendias suggested that if EU leaders followed the same course as last time, it would mean they had not learned their lesson.

“If you do the same things you did in the past and expect another outcome in the future, this is something described with the word ‘naive’ — and that’s a mild term for it, I would say,” Dendias said.

“Europe would send the wrong message to all the countries in the broader region. Whoever acts arbitrarily, whoever violates international law, whoever blackmails, is at the end of the day left unpunished or is even rewarded.”

Dendias declined to specify what the EU’s message should be. He said it should depend on whether Turkey shows a real change in attitude in the coming days and weeks.

Dendias said he is looking forward to working with the next U.S. administration. Both President-elect Joe Biden and his nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, know the region and Greek-Turkish problems very well, he said.

“I believe that the region needs the presence of the United States and particularly its military presence, in a way that would offset the lack of European military presence in the region,” he said.

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Iran arms embargo expires, opens nation to purchase and sale of foreign weapons

FILE – In this Nov. 13, 2012 file photo, an Iranian clergyman stands next to missiles and army troops, during a manoeuvre, in an undisclosed location in Iran. (Majid Asgaripour/Mehr News Agency via AP, File)

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UPDATED 3:20 PM PT – Sunday, October 18, 2020

A 13-year-old United Nations arms embargo against Iran came to an end this weekend, giving the Middle Eastern country to the ability to purchase foreign weapons. The embargo, which expired on Sunday, came as part of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Iranian officials have called the ban’s lift a “momentous day.”

Iran has said it doesn’t have plans to purchase any new weapons, but the country does have the ability to purchase upgraded weapon systems or sell weaponry it produces.

“What Tehran will be looking for will be maybe cooperation with countries like Russia and China,” stated political analyst Abbas Aslani. “When it comes to buying maybe some arms from those countries, Iran might be thinking of buying some missile defense system, like S-400 from Russia.”

In the meantime, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated the U.S. is prepared to sanction any entity that contributes to the sale of arms to or from Iran.

MORE NEWS: Israel, U.S. Delegates Board Flight To Formalize Diplomacy With Bahrain

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U.S. threatens sanctions after U.N. arms embargo against Iran expires

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference to announce the Trump administration’s restoration of sanctions on Iran, at the U.S. State Department in Washington, September 21, 2020.

Patrick Semansky | Pool | Reuters

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Sunday that the United States will slap sanctions on any individual or entity that assists Iran’s weapons program, a move that will likely further aggravate tensions between Washington and Tehran.

“For the past 10 years, countries have refrained from selling weapons to Iran under various UN measures. Any country that now challenges this prohibition will be very clearly choosing to fuel conflict and tension over promoting peace and security,” Pompeo said in a Sunday statement.

“Any nation that sells weapons to Iran is impoverishing the Iranian people by enabling the regime’s diversion of funds away from the people and toward the regime’s military aims,” he added.

The threat comes after a decade-long U.N. arms embargo against Iran officially expired Sunday as part of the nuclear deal agreed with world powers in 2015.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry announced that the “Islamic Republic of Iran may procure any necessary arms and equipment from any source without any legal restrictions and solely based on its defensive needs.” However, Tehran said it has no intention to go on a buying spree of conventional arms.

Under the U.N. arms embargo, the export of “certain conventional arms to Iran” and the “procurement of any arms or related materiel from Iran” is in violation of the U.N. Security Council resolution and is subject to sanctions.

However, the U.N. Security Council refused in August to support a U.S. effort to extend the arms embargo against Iran. China and Russia voted against Washington’s efforts, while even close U.S. allies such as Britain, France and Germany abstained. Only the U.S. and the Dominican Republic voted for an extension.

In response, the United States unilaterally re-imposed U.N. sanctions on Tehran last month through a snapback process, which other U.N. Security Council members have previously said Washington does not have the authority to execute because it withdrew from the nuclear deal in in 2018.

The same week that the U.S. reimposed the U.N. sanctions the Trump administration upped the ante even more. Pompeo, flanked by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, said the administration would sanction Iran’s entire Ministry of Defense.

“No matter who you are, if you violate the U.N. arms embargo on Iran, you risk sanctions,” Pompeo said in an address on Sept. 21. “Our actions today are a warning that should be heard worldwide,” he added.

Esper followed on Pompeo’s remarks and said the Pentagon was “ready to respond to future Iranian aggression” and called on Tehran to “act like a normal country.”

“We continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies and partners to counter Iran’s destabilizing behavior. In doing so, we will protect our people and our interests and maintain the security of like-minded nations across the region,” Esper added.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have mounted after President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the landmark Iran nuclear agreement in 2018, calling it “the worst deal ever.”

The 2015 accord lifted sanctions on Iran that crippled its economy and cut its oil exports roughly in half. In exchange for sanctions relief, Iran accepted limits on its nuclear program until the terms expire in 2025.

Trump has previously said that the U.S. wants to reach a broader deal with Iran that puts stricter limits on its nuclear and ballistic missile work and suppresses the regime’s role in regional proxy wars. Tehran has refused to negotiate while U.S. sanctions remain in place.

Following Washington’s exit from the nuclear deal, other signatories of the pact ⁠— France, Germany, the U.K., Russia and China ⁠— tried to keep the agreement alive. 

Earlier this year, a U.S. strike that killed Iran’s top military commander triggered the regime to further scale back compliance with the international nuclear pact. In January, Iran said it would no longer limit its uranium enrichment capacity or nuclear research.

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UN Security Council rejects US demand to extend Iran arms embargo

The UN Security Council rejected a US resolution to extend an international arms embargo on Iran.

Only the Dominican Republic supported the Trump administration resolution out of the 15 members on the security council. Russia and China opposed the resolution and eleven other nations abstained.

The resolution would have prevented Tehran’s buying and selling of conventional weapons indefinitely.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Israel and the six Arab Gulf nations who supported the extension “know Iran will spread even greater chaos and destruction if the embargo expires, but the Security Council chose to ignore them.”

“The United States will never abandon our friends in the region who expected more from the Security Council,” Pompeo said in a statement.

“We will continue to work to ensure that the theocratic terror regime does not have the freedom to purchase and sell weapons that threaten the heart of Europe, the Middle East and beyond.”

A spokesperson for Iran’s foreign ministry said the US should “stop shaming itself at UN, otherwise it will get isolated, even more than now.”

US Ambassador Kelly Craft said “the United States stands sickened — but not surprised — as the clear majority of council members gave the green light to Iran to buy and sell all manner of conventional weapons.”

US officials have suggested the US could use a “snap back” mechanism, as part of the 2015 nuclear deal to restore sanctions on Iran despite dropping out of the deal in 2018.

Lawyers at the State Department claimed in a memo that the US remains part of the Security Council resolution endorsing the deal and can use the provision to restore sanctions, AP reports.

Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany, meanwhile, are committed to the deal and said that extending the arms embargo could lead Iran to quit the nuclear agreement.

China’s ambassador to the UN, Zhang Jun, reiterated after the vote that since the US is no longer party to the 2015 agreement, it is “ineligible to demand the Security Council invoke a snap back.”

He said the overwhelming majority of council members “believe the US attempt has no legal basis.”

Germany’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Günter Sautter, said after the vote that Germany remains committed to the nuclear deal, but remains deeply concerned about Iran’s transfers of weapons to Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq in violation of the 2015 council resolution.

He said Germany has been engaging with council members and is ready to continue discussions “in order to find a pragmatic way forward, which addresses our collective concerns.”

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