March 26, 2023

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EU leaders discuss foreign policy after gas price deal

European Union (EU) heads of state and government discussed reducing economic dependence on China, aid to Kyiv and sanctions on Iran for its involvement in the war in Ukraine.

Leaders of the 27 EU member states clashed earlier in the day to hammer out a joint response to acute energy shortages that have plagued the bloc since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Discussions started on Thursday afternoon and continued till Friday morning. Following Germany’s refusal to deregulate gas prices, the 27 dissenters announced that they would continue to explore options that would make it possible to deregulate energy prices.

As part of their foreign policy meeting starting at 8am GMT on Friday, the twenty-seven will engage in a “strategic discussion” on relations with China, after a statement by the bloc’s executive earlier in the week that the EU should consider Beijing a rival.

Ukraine, Iran

Europe’s dependence on Russia, made clear by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and the suspension of gas supplies, has left the EU embroiled in not only a political, security and humanitarian but also an energy crisis on its borders.

The European Union on Thursday imposed immediate but limited sanctions on Iran over its supply of drones to Russia, which is waging a war in Ukraine.

Some countries in the bloc are calling for broader sanctions against Iran. Summit participants will condemn Tehran’s use of force during protests sparked by the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman detained for wearing clothing deemed inappropriate.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said on Friday that the European Union should discuss setting up a special court to judge Moscow’s aggression.

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“We must discuss the legal response to the crimes of aggression committed in Ukraine (…), which can only be resolved by a separate court,” he said.

Poland and the three Baltic states have proposed tougher sanctions on Russia, including a ban on diamond imports.

However, such a decision is unlikely to be adopted on Friday as it would require a unanimous vote of twenty-seven.

(Writing by Gabriela Pacinska; French version by Dagmara Makos, editing by Kate Entringer)

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