The European Union’s Foreign Ministers, meeting on Monday, took advantage of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s surprise visit to Brussels to warn of the risks of a conflict with Iran in the Middle East.
“I told him clearly that we are concerned about the tensions in the region and that we do not want a military escalation,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters after their meeting.
Pompeo’s decision to fly to Brussels, which was only communicated to the European authorities at the last moment, comes a week after the secretary of state canceled a planned visit to Berlin, where he was going to see his counterpart Heiko Maas and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In Germany, the change of plans has been interpreted as another example of the separation from the United States since the arrival of Donald Trump to the presidency.
It was in this context that the meeting between the Europeans and Mike Pompeo was organised.
Stressing the urgency of the situation, British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt at the start of the Brussels meeting said “We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident due to escalating tensions.”
“I think what we need is a period of calm, to make sure everyone understands what the other side thinks,” said Jeremy Hunt.
“We must be careful not to put Iran back on the path of nuclearisation, because if Iran becomes a nuclear power, its neighbors will probably want to become nuclear powers,” said the British minister, adding that this would be a huge step in the wrong direction,”
Brussels is frustrated by the decision of the United States to unilaterally abandon the pact with Tehran in 2015 to avoid the development of a military nuclear program.
In a statement On Monday EU High Commission for foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini voiced the Brussels continued support for Iran, which the EU is satisfied is upholding its end of the deal.
“I insist that the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) has certified that Iran has so far always respected the agreement,” Mogherini told reporters.
The path to renewed confrontation began when US President Donald Trump announced last year that he was withdrawing the US from the nuclear agreement with Iran and reimposed sanctions on the country.
Recently the US has further tightened the screw by expanding those sanctions to include countries that had previously been allowed to continue buying oil from Tehran.
Last week Washington announced that an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers would be sent to the Gulf in a show of force, citing unspecified intelligence of threats to its troops in the region.
Tehran responded with a 60 day ultimatum for the five remaining signatories of the accord to come to the negotiating table to discuss how to help Iran in the face of US sanctions. After this deadline, it said, it would begin to abandon the nuclear deal and start enriching uranium again.