France warns it could sanction Iran over missile tests

French Foreign Minister Jean Marc Ayrault, left, welcomes United States Secretary of State John Kerry before a meeting on the Mideast crisis, at the Quai d'Orsay ministry in Paris, March 13, 2016. (AFP/POOL/ GONZALO FUENTES)

PARIS — French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on Sunday warned Iran of possible European sanctions over its recent ballistic missile launches.

“If necessary, sanctions will be taken,” Ayrault said after a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry and several European counterparts.A

At the meeting, diplomats also discussed the French initiative for a multilateral conference to restart the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, as well as Syrian peace negotiations.

Kerry described the Iranian actions — which the US has asked to be discussed at a UN Security Council meeting on Monday — as a breach of UN resolutions.

Pime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered Israeli diplomats to demand that world powers punish Iran for missile launches, his office said Saturday.

Netanyahu “instructed the foreign ministry to contact the P5+1 countries and demand that immediate punitive measures be taken in the wake of Iran’s repeated and gross violations on the missiles issue,” it said in an English-language statement.

An agreement between Iran and the permanent five members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) lifts international sanctions in return for Tehran ensuring that its nuclear program remains purely for civilian use.

Israel strongly opposed the July deal, with Netanyahu warning that it would not block Iran’s path to nuclear weapons.

Iran says it fired two long-range ballistic missiles on Wednesday and similar tests were carried out on Tuesday, less than two months after the Iran nuclear deal was implemented.

Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said on Friday that she had asked the Security Council to discuss the matter on Monday.

The United States is “deeply concerned” about the missile tests “which are provocative and destabilizing,” she said in a statement.

Under the deal with Iran that came into force on January 16, most sanctions resolutions against Tehran were annulled.

But an arms embargo and restrictions on ballistic missile technology capable of carrying a nuclear warhead remain in place, under Resolution 2231.

Iran has maintained that its missile program is not aimed at developing a nuclear capability.

Diplomats also discussed France’s proposal to convene a peace conference to jumpstart the Israeli Palestinian peace process. Israel had previously opposed the move, after Ayrault’s predecessor said Paris would recognize Palestine if efforts failed, a threat Ayrault retracted last week.

Israel and the US have not officially said if they support the peace confab proposal. Both countries have maintained the bilateral talks between Jerusalem and Ramallah are needed to reach an agreement.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.


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