BRUSSELS (EJP)—European Union leaders on Friday endorsed new additional sanctions against Iran and Syria, at their summit in Brussels.
The measures against Tehran and Damascus had already been approved earlier this week by the EU Foreign Ministers.
Speaking at a press conference after the meeting of EU heads of state or government, EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy said the EU is resolved to keep the pressure on the Iranian regime.
The new round of sanctions approved last Monday in Luxembourg, are the harshest against Tehran since an oil embargo that went into effect in July. They are aimed at forcing Tehran back to the negotiating table over its nuclear program and are targeting Iranian financial institutions, trade, energy and shipping.
In their conclusions, EU leaders again stressed their "serious and deepening concerns over Iran's nuclear program" and recalled that Iran "is acting in flagrant violation of its international obligations and is refusing to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)."
The new measures against Iran, they said, are aimed at "achieving a serious and meaningful engagement from the Iranian regime."
The European Council (which is composed of the 27 EU heads of state or government) also reaffirmed its commitment to the "dual- track approach" and fully supports the efforts of the High Representative (EU foreign policy chief Catherine shton) on behalf of the E3+3 (EU, France, Germany and US, China, Russia) to engage Iran inmeaningful and constructive discussions."
"The Iranian regime can act responsibly and bring sanctions to an end, but as long as it does not do so, the EU remains determined to increase in close coordination with international partners, pressure on Iran in the context of the dual-track, approach," the EU Council said.
While it praised the new EU sanctions against Iran, Israel has reserved its judgment on whether it would halt Tehran’s nuclear drive.
"I would like to commend the European Union on the harsh sanctions it adopted yesterday against the greatest threat to peace in our time," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ambassadors from the EU countries in Jerusalem this week. .
"These are serious sanctions against Iran," he said.
"When the centrifuges stop spinning and the Iranian nuclear programme is halted, we shall know that they have achieved their aim," he added.
On the contrary, Russia criticized the European Union for imposing new sanctions on Iran and called for a fresh round of talks between world powers and Tehran "as soon as possible."
Moscow said unilateral sanctions by the EU dealt a "palpable blow" to the unity of the six nations - the United States, France, Britain, China, Germany and Russia - leading diplomatic efforts to rein in Iran's nuclear program.
"We will continue to consistently seek to achieve the organization of the next round of negotiations ... as soon as possible," the statement said.
No talks have been held since the last round in Moscow failed to bring a breakthrough last June.
On Syria, Herman Van Rompuy said EU leaders denounced the "unprecedented use of force" by the Syrian regime and warned against the implications of the Syrian crisis for the stability of the whole region.
In its conclusions, the European Council said "it is appalled by the deterioration of the situation in Syria. It endorses the conclusions adopted by the Council on 15 October and the additional restrictive measures against the Syrian regime and its supporters."
The EU Council "fully supports the efforts of Lakhdar Brahimi (the UN special envoy) in finding a political solution to the Syrian crisis. All key actors, notably those in the region and all members of the United Nations Security Council, should uphold their responsibilities and lend their support to the Joint Representative's endeavours."
"The EU is committed to working closely and comprehensively with international partners to ensure rapid support to Syria once transition takes place. The EU also commits to strengthening its support in building the capacity of civil society to participate in a future Syria. All opposition groups should agree on a set of shared principles in order to achieve an inclusive, orderly and peaceful transition."
The Council "strongly"condemned the shelling by Syrian forces of Turkish territory and called on all to prevent escalation and on the Syrian authorities to fully respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all neighbouring countries."
The European Council urged all parties "to respect international humanitarian law (including the inviolability of all medical facilities, medical personnel and vehicles)."
"All parties should put an end to all forms of violence, take special measures to protect all vulnerable groups, allow full and safe access for the delivery of humanitarian aid in all parts of the country. Those responsible for violations of international human rights law must be held accountable."
New EU round of sanctions against the Assad regime, the 19th since the start of the conflict in March 2011, include an assets freeze and travel ban against 28 Syrians and two firms.
The EU also prohibited the importation of arms into EU nations from Syria, or any involvement in the transport of Syrian arms.