Category Archives: Europe

Top diplomats from Europe, US ‘talks on reviving’ 2015 Iran deal.

Advertisements

Khamenei emphasised Wednesday that Iran wanted to see action from the US administration that would help its economy.

Top diplomats from European powers and the United States will hold talks to see how to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, days ahead of a deadline set by Tehran that could hinder these efforts.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will host his German and British counterparts in Paris on Thursday, with new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken joining via videoconference, the French foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Iran plans to restrict some UN nuclear agency inspections if the US does not lift its sanctions – imposed since 2018 by former President Donald Trump – by February 21, under the terms of a bill adopted by its parliament in December.

Advertisements

Highlighting the tough path ahead, German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced “concern” that Iran was failing to meet its obligations in telephone talks with President Hassan Rouhani, her spokesman said in a statement.

Analysts have said only a small window of opportunity remains to save the landmark deal, which received a near-fatal blow when Trump walked out in 2018.

Advertisements

The administration of current US President Joe Biden has said it is prepared to rejoin the deal and start lifting sanctions if Iran returns to full compliance, a precondition disputed by Tehran.

Iran mulls more non-compliance
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi will travel to Tehran on Saturday for talks with the Iranian authorities to find a solution for continuing inspections in the country, the agency said.

It warned that the step threatened by Tehran would have “a serious impact on the IAEA’s verification and monitoring activities in the country.”

Advertisements

In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price said that Iran should provide “full and timely cooperation” with the IAEA.

“Iran should reverse the steps and refrain from taking others that would impact the IAEA assurances on which not only the United States, not only our allies and partners in the region, but the entire world relies,” he said, adding that Blinken saw an “important role” for the European Union, of which France and Germany are members.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has demanded ‘action, not words’ from the US if it wants to revive Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers [Khamenei.IR/AFP]

Ellie Geranmayeh, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said it was “unlikely” the meeting on Thursday would produce a significant political or economic gesture to prevent Iran from going ahead with the restrictions.

“This deadline has been on the cards for months, and in absence of economic relief Iran’s leaders feel compelled to move ahead,” she told the AFP news agency.

Advertisements

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in Vienna in 2015, saw Iran curtail its nuclear programme in exchange for a gradual easing of international sanctions.

But Iran has stepped up its nuclear work in violation of the accord after US sanctions were reimposed as part of Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy to weaken the Iranian government.

Advertisements

The UN nuclear watchdog said last week that Iran had started producing uranium metal in a new violation of the accord, prompting European powers to warn that Tehran was “undermining the opportunity for renewed diplomacy.”

In her talks with Rouhani, Merkel said that “now was the time for positive signals that create trust and increase the chances of a diplomatic solution”.

However, the Iranian presidency said Rouhani in the call “criticised Europe’s performance” on its JCPOA commitments after the US withdrawal.

Advertisements

‘Only action’
While Iran’s policy is ultimately determined by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iranian presidential elections in June add another time pressure factor.

Rouhani – a key advocate of nuclear diplomacy with global powers – is set to step down after serving the maximum two consecutive terms, and a more hardline figure may replace him.

“There is a short window of time to limit the damage that could ensue from Iran’s next steps, for example by reducing the impact of such moves on the quality of inspections by international monitors,” Geranmayeh said.

She said Washington should move in political and practical terms to show Iran that the Biden administration “is distancing itself from Trump-era maximum pressure.”

Advertisements

Khamenei emphasised Wednesday that Iran wanted to see action from the US administration that would help its economy.

“This time only action, action. If we see action from the opposite side, we will act too,” he said.

Advertisements

#Newsworthy

COVID-19: Europe still vulnerable.

Advertisements

The number of vaccine doses administered in Europe now stands 41 million, greater that the nearly 36 million cases recorded since the start of the pandemic.

The World Health Organization on Thursday warned of a “false sense of security” in Europe, saying most of the continent’s nations were still vulnerable despite a fall in Covid cases.

WHO Europe director Hans Kluge told a press conference that “the decline in cases conceals increasing numbers of outbreaks and community spread involving variants of concern.”

More than a million cases are registered every week across the 53 member states in the UN agency’s European region, which includes several in central Asia.

Advertisements

But the number of reported cases has been falling over the past four weeks and deaths have also been declining over the past two weeks.

A healthcare worker takes a swab sample to run an antigen rapid test for coronavirus during a mass screening to test 100 percent of the town’s population in Leon, northern Spain, on February 3, 2021. – The Spanish government is “open” and “enthusiastic” to using Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in Spain, one of the countries in Europe most affected by the pandemic, as long as it is approved by the European Medicines Agency, Health Minister Carolina Darias said today. The shot — named after the Soviet-era satellite — faced criticism last year when it was approved in Russia before large-scale clinical trials. (Photo by CESAR MANSO / AFP)

“At this point, the overwhelming majority of European countries remain vulnerable,” Kluge said, adding that as of now there is “a thin line between the hope of a vaccine and a false sense of security.”

Advertisements

The number of vaccine doses administered in Europe now stands 41 million, greater that the nearly 36 million cases recorded since the start of the pandemic.

According to data from 29 out of the 37 countries that have begun vaccinations, 7.8 million have received both doses of the vaccines, Kluge said, warning that the number only accounts for 1.5 percent of the population in those countries.

“Vaccines are essential, but as of now, they are not sufficient to control the pandemic,” Kluge said.

Advertisements

The regional WHO director cautioned against “rash decisions” for countries contemplating easing restrictions.

“Time and again have we seen countries reopen too fast and lose hard-earned gains,” Kluge said.

With the emergence of new variants, vaccinations could also be undermined if the virus is allowed to circulate, potentially causing mutations that “may influence vaccine efficacy.”

“Unless we halt transmission now, the expected benefits from vaccinations in controlling this pandemic may not be evident,” Kluge said.

The WHO director also reiterated a call for an equitable distribution of vaccines to include poorer countries, both citing it as a “moral imperative,” but also as a means to mitigate risks.

Advertisements

“Unfair access to vaccines, can backfire. The longer the virus lingers, the greater the risk of dangerous mutations,” Kluge said.

Across the WHO’s European region, 38 countries have recorded cases linked to the variant first discovered in Britain and 19 nations have recorded cases from variant discovered in South Africa.

Advertisements

#Newsworthy

COVID-19: FMR French President, Valery Giscard dies at 94.

Advertisements

After losing his legislative seat, he ended his active political career in 2004.

Former French president Valery Giscard d’Estaing, a leading advocate of European integration who led his country into a new modern era, has died of Covid-19, his family said. He was 94.

Advertisements

Giscard, who had been in the hospital several times in recent months for heart problems, died late Wednesday “surrounded by his family” at the family home in the Loire region.

“His state of health had worsened and he died as a consequence of Covid-19,” the family said in a statement sent to AFP, adding that his funeral would be strictly private, according to his wishes.

French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to his predecessor, saying Giscard’s seven-year term had “transformed France”.

Advertisements

“His death has plunged the French nation into mourning”, Macron said, describing Giscard as “a servant of the state, a politician of progress and freedom”.

Giscard made one of his last public appearances on September 30 last year for the funeral of another former president, Jacques Chirac, who had been his prime minister.

He became the 20th century’s youngest president at 48 when in 1974 he beat his Socialist rival Francois Mitterrand, to whom he then lost after his seven-year term in 1981 in a failed re-election bid.

His presidency marked a clear break from the Gaullist conservatism of postwar France, which had been dominated by Charles de Gaulle and his successor Georges Pompidou.

Advertisements

In France, he is remembered for his radical reform drive, which included the legalisation of abortion, the liberalisation of divorce and the lowering of the voting age to 18.

In Europe, he helped drive moves towards a monetary union, in close cooperation with his German counterpart chancellor Helmut Schmidt, with whom he became friends and whose leadership years almost overlapped with his own.

Advertisements

Together they launched the European Monetary System (EMS), a precursor of today’s single currency, the euro.

“For Valery Giscard d’Estaing, Europe was to be a French ambition and France a modern nation. Respect,” said Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator.

He “succeeded in modernising political life in France,” added former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, praising the “great intelligence” he used to master “even the most complex international problems”.

Advertisements

Like Schmidt, Giscard was also a firm believer in strong ties with the US.

With his death, France “has lost a statesman who chose to open up to the world”, added Sarkozy’s Socialist successor Francois Hollande. He hailed a man who was “resolutely European” who helped strengthen Franco-German unity.

It was at Giscard’s initiative that leaders of the world’s richest countries first met in 1975, an event that evolved into the annual summits of the Group of Seven (G7) club.

‘A job unfinished’
With a more relaxed presidential-style than his predecessors, “VGE” was sometimes seen in public playing football or the accordion.

Advertisements

He also hosted garbage collectors to breakfast and invited himself to dinner at the homes of ordinary citizens.

Giscard involved his family in his political appearances, had the blue and red of France’s “tricolore” flag toned down, and the Marseillaise national anthem slowed.

Advertisements

Giscard was firmly part of the elite.

Tall and slender and with an elegant, aristocratic manner, he studied at France’s exclusive Ecole Polytechnique and the National Administration School.

Aged just 18, he joined the French resistance in World War II and took part in the liberation of Paris from its Nazi occupiers in 1944. He then served for eight months in Germany and Austria.

Advertisements

He launched his political career in 1959, becoming finance minister in 1969.

After his defeat in 1981 — which he said left him with “frustration at a job unfinished” — he remained active in centrist politics, first regaining a seat in the French parliament and then serving in the European Parliament.

In 2001, he was selected by European leaders to lead work on the bloc’s constitutional treaty — which French voters then rejected.

The death of Mitterrand in 1996 followed by that of his successor Chirac in 2019 had left Giscard as France’s oldest surviving leader by far.

Advertisements

In May 2020, French prosecutors opened an investigation after claims by a German reporter that he had repeatedly inappropriately touched her at his Paris office after an interview in 2018.

But Giscard strongly denied the allegations, describing them as “grotesque”.

Advertisements

#Newsworthy