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Thursday, February 9, 2023

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EU discusses Russia, sanctions against Iran, replenishment of Ukraine’s arms fund

European Union foreign ministers are meeting on Monday to try to agree on further sanctions against Russia and Iran and an additional 2 billion euros ($2.11 billion) for arms deliveries to Ukraine.

However, it remained unclear whether Hungary will block some decisions and resort to what diplomats have labeled “blackmail diplomacy” over a dispute over blocked EU funds for Budapest.

“There is agreement in principle, but there is also the big elephant in the room,” a senior EU diplomat told reporters, referring to Budapest’s use of its veto power. “It’s a kind of blackmail diplomacy that we’d rather not see, but it is what it is.”

Foreign ministers will discuss a ninth package of sanctions against Russia that will add nearly 200 additional persons and entities to the EU sanctions list.

They will also review new sanctions against Iranian people and organizations for human rights violations in Tehran’s crackdown on protesters and the supply of drones to Russia.

They will also aim to top up with €2 billion, a fund that member states have used to finance arms purchases for Kiev, but which has been largely depleted during nearly 10 months of war in Ukraine.

Ministers are expected to agree on a civilian mission to Moldova, which could request assistance in cyber defence, fighting corruption or strengthening the rule of law.

Foreign ministers are also expected to pave the way for a three-year military mission to Niger, initially deploying 50-100 troops and later up to 300 to help the country improve their logistics and infrastructure.

Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries, is threatened by a possible spillover of violence from neighboring Mali, where Islamist militants are gaining ground following the withdrawal of French and other European troops.

Before their meeting, ministers will speak with Eastern Partnership counterparts – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine – countries the EU has been trying to stabilize in the face of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

($1 = 0.9497 euros)

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