Saturday May 25th, 2024 10:11AM

European Union official urges G7 to step up air defense for Ukraine and expand Iran sanctions

By The Associated Press

CAPRI, Italy (AP) — The European Union’s top diplomat urged foreign ministers from leading industrialized nations Thursday to take quick, concrete steps to provide more air defense systems to Ukraine, warning that continued delays could tilt the war in Moscow’s favor.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell spoke on the sidelines of a Group of Seven foreign ministers meeting on the Italian resort island of Capri, where Russia’s war in Ukraine and surging tensions in the Middle East over Iran’s unprecedented attack on Israel were topping the agenda.

Without more Patriot air defense missile systems to guard against Russian strikes, “the electricity system of Ukraine will be destroyed. And no country can fight without having electricity at home, in the factories, in the front line,” Borrell warned.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed Borrell's call, saying he hoped new U.S. funding for Ukraine would soon come through after being stalled in Congress, but that other allies needed to step up.

“In this moment, it is urgent that all of the friends and supporters of Ukraine maximize their efforts to provide Ukraine with what it needs to continue to effectively defend itself against this Russian aggression,” Blinken said after meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani opened the first working session of the Capri meeting by calling for new sanctions against Iran for its weekend attack and concrete help for Ukraine to defend itself from Moscow’s attacks.

“If Ukraine loses, Putin will never sit at the peace table,” Tajani warned.

Russia’s war in Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas war were taking center stage at the Capri meeting of the foreign ministers from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, which dovetailed with other regional diplomatic efforts sending the same messages. On Wednesday, EU leaders meeting in Brussels vowed to ramp up sanctions on Iran to target its drone and missile deliveries to proxies in Gaza, Yemen and Lebanon.

Borrell said the existing EU sanctions regime would be strengthened and expanded to punish Tehran and help prevent future attacks on Israel. At the same time, he said, Israel needed to exercise restraint.

“I don’t want to exaggerate but we are on the edge of a war, a regional war in the Middle East, which will be sending shockwaves to the rest of the world, and in particular to Europe,” he warned. “So stop it.”

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Iran must be isolated “because of course there must be a reaction to this unprecedented incident, but there must be no further escalation in the region,” German news agency dpa reported.

Kuleba and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg were attending the Capri meeting as guests. Kuleba underlined his country’s need for essential military support, including artillery, ammunition, and air defense systems as Russia pushes along the front line.

He thanked Germany for providing Ukraine with a new Patriot battery, which was announced over the weekend, but urged the U.S. Congress to quickly approve a funding package that has been held up.

“So we will work here at the ministerial level to make other allies deliver air defense systems to Ukraine. Because it’s of fundamental importance," Kuleba said.

U.S. President Joe Biden said Wednesday he supported a proposal from the House speaker, Mike Johnson, to provide about $61 billion in aid for Ukraine, signaling bipartisan support for the precarious funding bill.

Blinken said he hoped the bill would come before the House this weekend and insisted that the U.S. has “profound stakes” in Ukraine’s success.

“If Putin is allowed to proceed with impunity, we know he won’t stop at Ukraine and we can safely predict that his aggression will continue,” Blinken said after meeting with Kuleba. “Other would-be aggressors around the world will take note and unleash their own aggressions. And we will have a world of conflict, not a world of peace and security.”

Baerbock, the German foreign minister, welcomed as a “hopeful sign” the apparent progress on the U.S. funding. "There are now signals from the U.S. from the Republicans that the support for Ukraine can be continued intensively,” she said, according to dpa.

Borrell said Europe can't rely solely on Washington to help Ukraine defend itself.

“Concrete decisions have to be taken in order to send to Ukraine more air defense,” he said. “We do have Patriots, we have anti-missile systems. We have to take them from the our barracks where they are just in case, and to send to Ukraine where the war is raging. And I’m sure we will be doing that, but it has to be done quickly.”

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Geir Moulson contributed from Berlin.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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