BRUSSELS: EU foreign ministers have endorsed a French government decision to sanction Iranian nationals accused of a bomb plot in France, potentially allowing the measures to take effect across the bloc, three diplomats said.
The ministers said technical work could now start on an EU-wide asset freeze on two Iranians and the Iranian intelligence service over a failed plot to carry out a bomb attack at a rally near Paris organized by an exiled Iranian opposition group.
Denmark, which in October said it suspected an Iranian government intelligence service had tried to carry out an assassination plot on its soil, also pushed for support for similar EU-wide sanctions once its investigation is complete, the diplomats told Reuters.
Though largely symbolic, the EU’s readiness to target Iranians marks a shift after months of division within the bloc over how to punish Iranians accused of destabilizing activities in Europe and the Middle East.
In an effort to balance their Iran policy, ministers also discussed setting up a special mechanism to trade with Iran that would be under EU, not national, law. They believe this formula could shield individual member states from being hit by US sanctions that have been reimposed on trade with Iran after Washington’s pullout from the nuclear deal.
In March, Britain, France and Germany proposed to sanction Iran over its development of ballistic missiles and its role in Syria’s war, but the initiative failed to gather sufficient support across the EU to take effect.
The EU move came as British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt visited Iran on Monday for talks about the conflict in Yemen and freeing UK nationals held in Iranian jails.
Hunt met his counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, and they discussed plans to keep trade flowing in spite of renewed US sanctions, according to Iranian media.
But Hunt was particularly focused on the conflict in Yemen, where Iran is accused of supplying weapons to Houthi militias.