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Newsline: European diplomats block EU’s new ambassador’s plans to live on Millionaires’ Row in London

EU diplomats have “shot down” plans for the EU’s newly appointed ambassador to Britain to rent a luxurious London residence on Chelsea’s “Millionaires’ Row”. Europe’s diplomatic service was planning to lease a large and lavish property on Upper Cheyne Row for Pedro Serrano de Haro, the new envoy, formerly chief of staff to Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief and a fellow Spaniard. The four-storey townhouse runs to 645 sq m and has five bedrooms, a roof terrace, two patios and a driveway. The rent would have been more than €1 million (£900,000) a year. Diplomats from member states reacted with fury at cost of the proposed residence. (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/european-ambassador-eyes-home-on-londons-millionaires-row-rbj25phg5) Serrano de Haro, 62, is married but his two daughters have left home so the palatial residence would have been occupied by only himself and his wife.

Newsline: EU diplomats say talks on Russian oil product price caps to continue next week

Ambassadors of European Union governments on Friday discussed a European Commission proposal to set price caps on Russian oil products from Feb 5, but reached no decision and decided to continue talks next week, EU diplomats said. “The meeting is over. The proposal from the Commission was discussed and will be reviewed further in the coming week. There were no conclusions today,” one EU diplomat said. (https://neuters.de/markets/commodities/eu-talks-russian-oil-product-price-caps-continue-next-week-diplomats-2023-01-27/) The European Commission proposed on Thursday that the EU set a $100 per barrel price cap on premium Russian oil products like diesel and a $45 per barrel cap on discounted products like fuel oil. The price cap numbers have to be agreed on by EU governments. A price cap of $60 per barrel cap was imposed on Russian crude on Dec. 5. Both price caps work by prohibiting Western insurance and shipping companies from insuring or carrying cargoes of Russian crude and oil products unless they were bought at or below the price cap.

Newsline: EU Top Diplomats Adopt New Iran Sanctions

The European Union on Monday introduced new sanctions against Iran for a “brutal” crackdown on protests, but the bloc’s top diplomat said the country’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) cannot be listed as a terrorist group without a court decision. Sweden, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said the bloc’s foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday “adopted a new package of sanctions against Iran, targeting those driving the repression.” “The EU strongly condemns the brutal and disproportionate use of force by the Iranian authorities against peaceful protesters,” said Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom, according to a Twitter post by the country’s EU diplomatic mission. (https://www.ibtimes.com/eu-agrees-new-iran-sanctions-wont-label-guards-terrorist-now-3659919) EU diplomats told Reuters last week the bloc was set to add 37 names to a blacklist of Iranian people and entities banned from travelling to Europe and subject to an asset freeze. Relations between the 27-nation EU and Tehran have deteriorated during stalled efforts to revive talks on its nuclear programme, worsening further as Iran has moved to detain several European nationals.

Newsline: Iran’s top diplomat vows ‘reciprocal’ response to EU

Iran on Sunday warned the European Union it would take “reciprocal” measures after the European Parliament voted to list the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group. “The parliament is working to place elements of European countries’ armies on the terrorist list” of the Islamic republic, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Twitter. “The European Parliament shot itself in the foot,” Iran’s top diplomat said, adding that the response would be “reciprocal”. Later asked if Iran would consider withdrawing from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or expel United Nations nuclear inspectors, Amir-Abdollahian said all options were on the table. If European diplomats “who have no experience in diplomacy… do not correct their positions, every possibility is conceivable”, he was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA. (https://news.yahoo.com/iran-vows-reciprocal-response-eu-124333692.html) Amir-Abdollahian and Guards chief Major General Hossein Salami attended a closed-door parliament session on Sunday morning to discuss the European Parliament’s move. Members of the European Parliament voted on Wednesday to include the Guards on the 27-nation bloc’s terror list in “light of its terrorist activity, the repression of protesters and its supplying of drones to Russia”. The vote is non-binding but comes with EU foreign ministers already due to discuss tightening sanctions on Iran next week.

Newsline: UK top diplomat says gaps remain in Northern Ireland talks with EU

There are still genuine differences between British and European Union negotiators that could take some time to resolve if talks on revising post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland are to succeed, Britain’s foreign minister said. James Cleverly was speaking after meeting political and business leaders in Northern Ireland to discuss difficulties about the trading arrangements after a mellowing in a years-long standoff yielded some progress this week. “Optimism is great, having a spirit of optimism is important but there are still genuine differences and they can’t just be wished away, they need to be resolved and sometimes that does take some time,” Cleverly told reporters. (https://neuters.de/world/uk/uk-ministers-meet-northern-irish-leaders-post-brexit-trade-2023-01-11/) The post-Brexit trading arrangements, the so-called Northern Ireland protocol agreed with the European Union, has put strains not only on the British-run province but also on ties between London and Brussels over the deal. But over the last few months, the tone of talks to try to resolve differences over the protocol has softened, with the antagonism that marked the discussions since 2019 replaced by what appears to be a new push to find a negotiated settlement.

Newsline: EU summons Iran ambassador

The European Union summoned Iran’s ambassador to the bloc on Monday and told him it was appalled by the executions at the weekend of two Iranians arrested in the course of a violent crackdown on anti-government protesters in the country. Stefano Sannino, secretary-general of the European External Action Service (EEAS), reiterated the EU’s outrage to the ambassador, Hossein Dehghani, the EEAS said in a statement. (https://neuters.de/world/eu-summons-iran-ambassador-voice-outrage-executions-2023-01-09/) Sannino also repeated an EU call on Iranian authorities to annul without delay death sentences already pronounced against other protesters.

Newsline: EU top diplomat to visit Morocco despite graft scandal

The EU defended a trip by its top diplomat to Morocco, which has been linked, along with Qatar, to a graft scandal unrolling at the European Parliament. As “there is no proof” of wrongdoing at this stage, it is right the trip by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Thursday and Friday should go ahead, a spokesman for Borrell said. “No one has officially said from the judicial point of view that Morocco as a country is guilty, and Morocco should be avoided in international contact,” said the spokesman, Peter Stano. (https://news.yahoo.com/borrell-visit-morocco-clouded-eu-133642277.html) The scandal erupted last month when Belgian police raided several addresses used by some lawmakers and aides in the European Parliament, lobbyists and NGO heads. The searches turned up 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million) in cash, suspected to be pay-offs as part of efforts to influence decisions in the European Parliament. Four suspects are in custody, including a Greek MEP, Eva Kaili. She was not able to excercise her parliamentary immunity because a judge determined she had been caught red-handed. Kaili, who was stripped of her position as one of the parliament’s 14 vice presidents after her arrest, insists she is innocent. Through her lawyer she has expressed ignorance about 150,000 euros in cash found in her Belgian residence. Her Italian boyfriend, Francesco Giorgi, a parliamentary aide, has reportedly made a confession to Belgian prosecutors, which also alleges Moroccan involvement. Qatar has denied any wrongdoing in the case, which is still being investigated by Belgian authorities.

Newsline: Chinese ambassador says Ukraine crisis affected ties with EU

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has put China in a “very difficult position” for its bilateral relations with the European Union, Fu Cong, the Chinese ambassador to the EU, was quoted as saying in an interview with the South China Morning Post published on Friday. Fu said one of his priorities in the new role was to “depoliticise” EU-China relations, SCMP reported. He said that China was not benefiting from the war, and did not have any interest in prolonging the conflict, the newspaper said. Fu added that China’s position was “quite balanced” and that the country is ready to engage in peaceful efforts, the Morning Post said. (https://neuters.de/world/chinese-ambassador-says-ukraine-crisis-has-hurt-relations-with-eu-report-2022-12-23/) European Council President Charles Michel urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to use the country’s “influence” on Russia over its war in Ukraine during a visit to Beijing earlier this month.

Newsline: Door left open for Iran nuclear diplomacy

For nearly two years the United States has tried and failed to negotiate a revival of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal yet Washington and its European allies refuse to close the door to diplomacy. Their reasons reflect the danger of alternative approaches, the unpredictable consequences of a military strike on Iran, and the belief that there is still time to alter Tehran’s course: even if it is inching toward making fissile material it is not there yet, nor has it mastered the technology to build a bomb, according to officials. “I think that we do not have a better option than the JCPOA to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons,” Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said last week in Brussels after a meeting of EU officials. Under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action under which Tehran reined in its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions. “We have to continue engaging as much as possible in trying to revive this deal.” (https://neuters.de/world/us-leaves-door-open-iran-nuclear-diplomacy-2022-12-19/) The uphill climb to revive the pact has grown steeper this year. Iran has brutally cracked down on popular protests, Iranian drones have allegedly made their way to aid Russia’s war in Ukraine and Tehran has accelerated its nuclear program, all of which raise the political price to giving Iran sanctions relief.

Newsline: Qatar’s diplomat denies involvement in EU corruption case

Qatar reiterated on Sunday that the country denies any involvement in a corruption case being investigated by Belgian authorities involving people linked to the European Parliament. A statement on Sunday by a diplomat from Qatar’s mission to the European Union said “preconceived prejudices” led the parliament to vote on Thursday to suspend all work on legislation involving Qatar and to bar Qatari representatives from its premises. The suspension affects legislation linked to visa liberalisation, an EU-Qatar aviation agreement and planned visits until the allegations have been confirmed or dismissed. “The decision to impose such a discriminatory restriction…will negatively effect regional and global security cooperation, as well as ongoing discussions around global energy poverty and security,” the diplomat said. Belgian authorities have charged four people linked to the European Parliament over allegations World Cup host Qatar lavished them with cash and gifts to influence decision-making. Qatar has previously denied any wrongdoing. A spokesperson for the European Parliament declined to comment on the accusation.