June 23. 2024. 8:33

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EU foreign and defence ministers pledge to do more to arm Ukraine


The Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg -attended by EU Defence Ministers as well as Foreign Ministers was told by their Ukrainian counterparts about the heightened Russian bombardment their country is facing. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defence Minister Rustem Umerov, joined the start of the meeting via video conferencing, writes Political Editor Nick Powell.

In addition to missiles and drones, the Ukrainians reported that 7000 guided bombs fired by Russia in four months of this year, about 60 guided bombs a day. There is also constant shelling in area close to the front line. Ukraine lacks the weapons to fully defend itself against Russia’s aggression.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said there was a clear sense of urgency for the European Union and all Ukrainian allies to act. “The most important way of acting is providing air defence batteries and ammunition for these batteries”, he said.

Josep Borrell proposed that the urgent delivery of air defence systems and missiles to Ukraine be coordinated at EU level. Some member states indicated their readiness to consider specific assistance to Ukraine or to contribute to existing initiatives, joining the Czechs on ammunition or the Germans on air defence.

“The [Russian] impact on the electricity system of Ukraine is very high … it is very appalling” he said, adding that “there is a clear sense of urgency for the European Union and all Ukraine’s allies to act.

“The most important way of acting is providing air defence batteries and ammunition for these batteries … at the same time, we do not have to forget the lack of ammunition for conventional fights with 155 [millimetre] caliber. Many countries have been joining the Czech initiative in order to look for ammunition everywhere in the world. The first delivery will come end of May/first of June. And also, others have shown their readiness to participate in the German initiative to concentrate, coordinate and push for the anti-aerial capacities”.

The Foreign Affairs Council discussed the situation in the Middle East and the risk of escalation in the wider region. Further steps were agreed against Iran, both in response to its threat to regional stability and to its support for Russia.

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“We have reached a political agreement in order to enlarge and expand the existing drones regime to impose sanctions to Iran in order to cover missiles and their potential transfers to Russia” said Josep Borell, who clarified that this included missile production. He said that the EU would “expand the geographical area of this framework to cover drone and missile deliveries not only to Russia but to the whole region of the Middle East and the Red Sea and … expand the list of prohibited drone components”.

On Gaza, the High Representative was grim. There was no progress on the release of hostages, no prospect of a ceasefire, no real easing of the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe. There would be no lasting stability in the region as long as the war in Gaza continues. Ministers agreed to invite once more the Israeli Foreign Minister to a future meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council, as well as the new Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority.

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