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EU leaders are calling for calm as the situation between Israel and Iran threatens to escalate

European Union leaders called for calm in Brussels on Wednesday as Israel considers a response to a direct attack from Iran amid the prospect of escalating tensions in the Middle East.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged Israel not to retaliate against Iran with a “mass attack of its own” in a call for calm upon his arrival at the two-day summit.

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said: “All efforts are now being made to manage the conflict so that it does not become a major conflagration, so that there is no total escalation.”

Scholz called on Israel to now use its successful defense against Iran’s missile and drone attack “to strengthen its own position across the region.” On this basis, “a corresponding military response would certainly not be appropriate,” he said.

What should have been an in-depth strategic assessment of the European Union’s economic competitiveness was overshadowed by events in the Middle East. Iran attacked Israel directly on Saturday for the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic.

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Iran said the drone and missile strikes were in retaliation for the killing of senior Iranian officers in Syria early this month.

EU leaders discuss whether and, if so, how the EU could contribute to a de-escalation in the region.

New punitive measures against Iran are being discussed. These could be imposed through a sanctions regime set up after Iran began supporting Russia’s war against Ukraine by supplying Moscow with drones.

These sanctions ban the export of components used in the construction and production of unmanned aerial vehicles to Iran, and could be expanded to make it more difficult for Iran to produce missiles.

Calls by Israel to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the elite unit of the Iranian armed forces, as a terrorist organization are more difficult to answer.

To achieve this sanction, the IRGC would first have to be prosecuted by a national authority for terrorist activities under EU law. However, Scholz said that a recent court ruling in the EU, regarding the IRGC’s activities, is being investigated by EU officials.

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This could open the way for a terrorist designation for the IRGC, Scholz said. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said his country would support sanctions against the IRGC.

The issue of Ukrainian air defense is also on the minds of EU leaders.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda urged speeding up arms deliveries to Kiev, complaining that Ukrainian cities are being bombed “every day and night.”

“The two biggest problems for Ukraine right now are grenades – that is, ammunition – and the second is air defense,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. He said the Netherlands and Denmark are working together to supply F16 fighter jets.

In his address to EU leaders via video link, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for more support against Russian air strikes.

He drew a comparison between the support Israel received when American, French and British fighter jets helped shoot down Iranian drones and missiles and the help, or lack thereof, that Ukraine receives against Russian bombing.

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“Here in Ukraine, in our part of Europe, we unfortunately do not have the level of defense that we all saw a few days ago in the Middle East,” he said. “Our Ukrainian air and the air of our neighbors deserve the same safety,” he added.

Germany has already delivered two Patriot surface-to-air missile systems to Ukraine and will deliver one more, Scholz said.

“We know we have to do more than we have done so far to support Ukraine now. This applies in particular to all air defense capabilities that are needed,” Scholz said.

Ireland’s new prime minister said he will use his first EU summit in Brussels to encourage other EU leaders to recognize a Palestinian state.

Simon Harris said he intended to convey the need for “a number of European states to now go further and recognize the state of Palestine,” Harris told reporters.

“If you believe in a two-state solution, I think such positive momentum can be useful and important,” he said.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (L) and President of the European Council Charles Michel attend the special meeting of the European Council in Brussels.  Dario Pignatelli v European Council/dpa

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (L) and President of the European Council Charles Michel attend the special meeting of the European Council in Brussels. Dario Pignatelli v European Council/dpa

(LR) French President Emmanuel Macron, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis attend the special meeting of the European Council in Brussels.  -/European Council/dpa(LR) French President Emmanuel Macron, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis attend the special meeting of the European Council in Brussels.  -/European Council/dpa

(LR) French President Emmanuel Macron, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis attend the special meeting of the European Council in Brussels. -/European Council/dpa

King of Belgium Philippe (C) poses for a group photo with European leaders during a reception on the occasion of the special meeting of the European Council.  Dario Pignatelli v European Council/dpaKing of Belgium Philippe (C) poses for a group photo with European leaders during a reception on the occasion of the special meeting of the European Council.  Dario Pignatelli v European Council/dpa

King of Belgium Philippe (C) poses for a group photo with European leaders during a reception on the occasion of the special meeting of the European Council. Dario Pignatelli v European Council/dpa

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