High-Stakes Summit: G7 Mulls Sanctions On Iran, What Should We Expect?

By Victor Smiroff | Thursday, 18 April 2024 05:15 AM
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Image Credit : Chatham House Saab

The foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) nations are convening on the Italian resort island of Capri, with the escalating tensions in the Middle East and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine dominating the discussions.

The ministers are expected to call for increased sanctions against Iran following its unprecedented attack on Israel and to advocate for more aid to Ukraine in its struggle against Russian aggression.

Under Italy's current leadership, the G7 is anticipated to issue a collective plea for Israel to exercise restraint in the wake of Iran's attack, which involved hundreds of drones, ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles. Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani has already communicated with his Israeli counterpart, Israel Katz, urging Israel to de-escalate its response to Iran's aggression and to reconsider a planned offensive into the southern Gaza city of Rafah. "I reiterated this message and I believe that on the occasion of the G7 foreign ministers in Capri, tomorrow and Friday morning, a similar message will be sent," Tajani told state-run RAI.

The recent attack by Tehran adds a new urgency to the three-day meeting of foreign ministers from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has called for new sanctions against Tehran and is making a last-minute visit to Israel before arriving on Capri. "We will discuss how a further escalation with more and more violence can be prevented," she said. "Because what matters now is to put a stop to Iran without encouraging further escalation."

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Germany, a staunch ally of Israel, has joined the chorus of European and U.S. leaders urging Israel to de-escalate tensions and refrain from retaliation for Tehran’s attack, which was largely repelled thanks to U.S. and allied assistance.

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British Foreign Secretary David Cameron has stated his intention to advocate for "coordinated sanctions against Iran" at the meeting. He argued that Tehran was orchestrating "so much of the malign activity in this region" from Hamas in Gaza, to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon to the Houthi rebels in Yemen who are behind attacks on shipping in the Red Sea. "They need to be given a clear and unequivocal message by the G-7 and I hope that will happen," Cameron told broadcasters during a visit to Israel.

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The ongoing conflict in Ukraine, now in its second year, is also a priority for the G7 ministers. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg have been invited to the Capri meeting as guests. Kuleba is expected to reiterate his country’s need for essential military support, including artillery, ammunition, and air defense systems to bolster its capacity as Russia pushes along the front line.

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The United States and several European countries are discussing proposals to use the profits generated from billions of euros of frozen Russian assets to help provide weapons and other funds for Ukraine, proposals that have gained momentum as U.S. efforts to secure new funds for weapons have stalled in Congress.

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At the European Union level, EU leaders are set to discuss the proposal at a summit in Brussels. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell is expected to attend the Capri meeting. The 27-nation EU is holding around $217 billion in Russian central bank assets, most of it frozen in Belgium, in retaliation for Moscow’s war against Ukraine. The bloc estimates that the interest on that money could provide around $3.3 billion each year.

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U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has stated that she will meet separately with G7 finance ministers to discuss, among other things, Russian sovereign assets. "We’re looking at a series of possibilities ranging from actually seizing the assets to using them as collateral," she told reporters in Washington.

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On the Middle East front, tensions have escalated since the start of the latest Israel-Hamas war on October 7, when Hamas and Islamic Jihad, two militant groups backed by Iran, carried out a devastating cross-border attack that killed 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapped 250 others. Israel responded with an offensive in Gaza that has caused widespread devastation and killed over 33,800 people, according to local health officials.

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World leaders have urged Israel not to retaliate after Iran launched a revenge mission that pushed the Middle East closer to a regionwide war. The attack occurred less than two weeks after a suspected Israeli strike in Syria killed two Iranian generals in an Iranian consular building.

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