Press Releases Iran/Israel: Speech by the High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the EP plenary

Iran/Israel: Speech by the High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the EP plenary

Honourable members [of the European Parliament], Señoras y Señores diputados, Señor presidente,

We are here to discuss about the Iranian attack on Israel and the need for de-escalation, and about our response to these events.

Yes, on 13 April, Iran’s attack against Israel was unprecedented. It never happened before. It is the first time that Iran directly attacks Israel from its territory, with hundreds of drones and missiles. All this without forgetting the Israeli attack [on Iranian consulate building in Damascus] that preceded it and that we also condemned, when this happened.

This aerial attack [by Iran] represents a major escalation of an already very tense situation in the region, where we have witnessed dangerous games of attacks and retaliations, retaliations and attacks.

I want to use the same words that the United Nations Secretary-General [Antonio] Guterres used at the [United Nations] Security Council, he said: “The region is at the edge of an abyss”. Yes, estamos al borde de un abismo, dijo el secretario general.

No son palabras huecas. Ciertamente, esta continua interacción bélica nos conduce, conduce a la región – y con ella todos nosotros – a una situación muy peligrosa.

Ahora últimamente parece que nos hemos movido un poco desde el borde del abismo después de que se fueron produciendo explosiones en Isfahán, en Irán. Pero ninguno de los dos lados – ni Israel ni Irán – utilizaron estas explosiones como un elemento nuevo de escalada. Pero este riesgo existe todavía, y nuestra obligación es llamar a la contención para que la escalada no aumente el nivel de riesgo.

Es una situación muy volátil, también en la frontera norte entre Israel y Hezbollah donde hemos visto al Líbano otra vez en una situación muy frágil. Y las Naciones Unidas advierten de que cualquier cálculo erróneo por una de las dos partes puede provocar otro conflicto. En todo caso, el nivel de intercambio de fuego en la frontera del Líbano ha alcanzado niveles que no se veían desde el 2006.

Los 27 lideres de la Unión Europea – y nosotros también al nivel de ministros de Asuntos Exteriores – hemos enviado a strong message over the past days. We, the European Union – together with the Member States – have taken a strong stance asking all actors in the region to move away from this abyss, an abyss that the UN Secretary-General was mentioning. We discussed it at the Foreign Ministers’ level on Monday.

We all clearly condemned the Iranian attack and confirmed our commitment to the security of Israel.

There is a political consensus to expand the existing sanctions against Iran.

The Foreign Affairs Ministers, in a Jumbo meeting together with the Defence Ministers, took a political agreement – that will be implemented in the next days – in order to use the sanctions’ regime that we already have. Because, from time to time, people ask for something that we already have. We have a sanctions’ regime against Iran for providing drones to Russia. Well, the sanctions’ regime can now be used to sanction the production and potential transfers of missiles from Iran to Russia. I am saying the potential transfer, but also the production itself, and also to target Iranian deliveries of such weapons in the Middle East and the Red Sea region. You know what I am talking about. In the Red Sea region, we have a navy mission [Operation ASPIDES] to try to protect freedom of navigation.

Let me add that sanctions are an important tool, and we have used them to send a clear message to Iran about their dangerous proliferation activities aiming at the destabilisation of the region.

However, I think that we have to understand that, sanctions alone are not a policy. Sanctions are tools to a policy. Sanctions alone cannot deter Iran. This should be evident after years and years of international sanctions. Iran is, together with North Korea, the most sanctioned country in the world. Sanctions alone cannot solve the risk of escalation, and a place has to be given to diplomacy. Diplomatic action has to be equally important.

I think this is a moment for diplomacy, to deploy maximum diplomatic efforts. To act to calm down the situation. And ask everybody to play their part. The European Union and Member States are in touch with key actors because the European Union keeps open channels with all sides.

That is what we talked about at the G7 Foreign Affairs Meeting in Capri some days ago.

As you know, I am regularly in touch with the Iranian Foreign Minister [Hossein Amir-Abdollahian], in order to stress to him how deplorable are these attacks, warning that we are closer to a full regional conflict.

In the past days, we also coordinated our efforts to reach out to Israel to show restraint, and to Arab and Gulf countries to use their influence. We had a meeting with the Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council, in Luxembourg – I think it was on Monday night. Immediately after, I came to Strasbourg to share with you the debates.

But this was an important occasion for the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the 27 EU [Member States] and the ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council states to exchange about the situation in the Middle East. The spiral of attacks and counterattacks might have slowed down – that is a very good news – but the situation remains unstable and dangerous.

Finally, while we pay all the necessary attention to the Iranian attack on Israel and the risk of escalation, let’s not forget what is going on in Gaza. You listen to the news, you read the news.

Gaza remains at the epicentre of the regional tensions. It is the focus that is sending shockwaves around the region, and around the world.

Gaza remains at the epicentre of the regional tensions, and it will be like this as long the war continues and, more fundamentally, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not resolved.

So, we have to be able to build peace and stability in the region, taking into account all the conflicts that are developing there, taking into account our absolute commitment to the defence and existence of Israel, but also taking into account the high human cost of the conflicts which are raging there.

The European voice has to be the voice of the reason, trying to decrease the humanitarian suffering and look for a stable peace that, from our point of view, can only be obtained through a political process that leads to a two-state solution. But this is another story.

Thank you.


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