EU to impose new sanctions on Iran for human rights violations: diplomats
The European Union will add 37 individual entries to its sanctions against Iran on Monday, two European diplomats told Reuters, as the bloc works on listing Tehran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a terrorist organisation.
"We will adopt the fourth package of sanctions against Iran on Monday and we believe we should already start working on the fifth one to list IRGC as a terrorist organisation," said one of the sources, an EU diplomat.
The IRGC was set up shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution to protect the Shia clerical ruling system and provide a counterweight to the regular armed forces.
It has an estimated 125,000-strong military with army, navy and air units. It also commands the Basij religious militia, a volunteer paramilitary force loyal to the clerical establishment which is often used to crack down on anti-government protests.
Relations between EU member states and Tehran have deteriorated as efforts to revive nuclear talks have stalled. Tehran has also detained several European nationals and the bloc has become increasingly critical of its continuing violent crackdown on protesters and the transfer of Iranian drones to Russia.
Both sources said 37 new names would be blacklisted for human rights violations when the bloc's foreign ministers meet on Monday. The sanctions would mean the IRGC members would not be allowed to travel to the EU and any assets they hold in Europe would be frozen.
The two diplomats added, however, that the IRGC would not be sanctioned as an organisation - yet.
"If you do this, it has to be legally sound and that is being discussed right now. But it won't be ready for Monday," one of them said.
The EU's chief executive, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, this week backed the listing of the IRGC as a terrorist organisation in response to what she said was the trampling of fundamental human rights in the Islamic republic.
Iran warned on Thursday that the EU would "shoot itself in the foot" if it designated the guards as a terrorist entity, a day after the European Parliament called on the EU and its member states to do so.
The sources said there was still some debate among the 27-bloc members, but that France, which had previously held reservations, was now backing the move.
One of the diplomats said Paris' stance had particular toughened with seven of its citizens being detained in the country. On Tuesday, the foreign ministry demanded the immediate release of Bernard Phélan, a Franco-Irish national, whose health has significantly deteriorated.