Congress to Enhance ‘Coordinated’ Sanctions Against Tehran

Senator Bob Menendez. AP file photo
Senator Bob Menendez. AP file photo
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Congress to Enhance ‘Coordinated’ Sanctions Against Tehran

Senator Bob Menendez. AP file photo
Senator Bob Menendez. AP file photo

Democrat and Republican senators put forward this week a resolution calling for strengthening US sanctions against Tehran.

Sponsored by 33 Senate colleagues, the bipartisan resolution urges the Biden administration to strengthen international efforts to impose additional sanctions on officials and entities responsible for the violent suppression of demonstrations in Iran.

It also underscores the importance of the US government and private sector providing additional support for access to digital communications and internet freedom in Iran so that Iranian citizens have the tools necessary to communicate with the world and each other.

“I am proud to be joined by my colleagues in reintroducing this bipartisan resolution commending the bravery of these Iranian protesters who have stood their ground against the Iranian regime for more than 130 days and counting,” said Bob Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

He praised the recent steps taken by the international community to impose coordinated sanctions, isolate Iran from international fora, and provide Iranians with the technology they need to circumvent the regime’s censorship. “These are exactly the kind of actions this resolution supports,” Menendez said.

Jim Risch, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, spoke about the importance of tightening US sanctions on Tehran in several fields, in addition to addressing Iran’s dangerous collusions with Russia.

“The Biden Administration should step up efforts on helping to end the regime’s systematic persecution of women and holding human rights violators in Iran to account,” he stated.

For her part, Senator Marsha Blackburn supported Risch’s approach, strongly urging the Biden administration to impose additional human rights sanctions on the Iranian government and prioritize efforts to ensure unrestricted internet access in Iran.

“It’s important that we send Iran and the rest of the world a clear message: The United States is watching and will not tolerate this egregious suppression of freedom,” she said.

This came few days after the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan resolution expressing support for Iranian protesters and condemning the government crackdown.

The resolution, which passed 420 votes to one, was the first to be presented in the House after its new session. It reveals that the Iranian file enjoys great consensus among Democrats and Republicans.

Commenting on the resolution, Congresswoman Claudia Tenney said the House reaffirmed with one voice its commitment to support these brave Iranian protestors, who are more resolved than ever to fight the regime in Tehran.



Ukraine Realizes a Dream as It Launches EU Membership Talks, but Joining Is Likely to Take Years

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Olga Stefanishyna (6-L, front row) poses with European affairs ministers and representatives at the first meeting of the Conference on Accession of Ukraine to the European Union in Luxembourg, 25 June 2024. (EPA)
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Olga Stefanishyna (6-L, front row) poses with European affairs ministers and representatives at the first meeting of the Conference on Accession of Ukraine to the European Union in Luxembourg, 25 June 2024. (EPA)
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Ukraine Realizes a Dream as It Launches EU Membership Talks, but Joining Is Likely to Take Years

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Olga Stefanishyna (6-L, front row) poses with European affairs ministers and representatives at the first meeting of the Conference on Accession of Ukraine to the European Union in Luxembourg, 25 June 2024. (EPA)
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Olga Stefanishyna (6-L, front row) poses with European affairs ministers and representatives at the first meeting of the Conference on Accession of Ukraine to the European Union in Luxembourg, 25 June 2024. (EPA)

The European Union launched membership talks with Ukraine on Tuesday, a decade after Russian troops seized the Crimean Peninsula to deter the country from moving closer to the West, part of a chain of events that set the two neighbors on the path to war.

Ukraine’s accession negotiations were set in motion at an intergovernmental conference in Luxembourg. Moldova is also due to launch its membership talks later Tuesday. While the events are a major milestone on their European paths, the talks could take years to conclude.

In opening remarks presented via video-link, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal described it as “a historic day” that marks “a new chapter” in his country’s ties with the bloc, particularly as the war with Russia rages on.

“We fully understand that there is still much work ahead of us on the path to accession. We are ready for it. We have demonstrated that we can move swiftly and achieve the impossible,” Shmyhal said.

Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, described it as “a historic moment for us all, and marks a milestone in our relationship.”

Lahbib said the EU condemns “Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine and salutes the resilience of the Ukrainian people,” and added that the bloc will continue to support Ukraine in the war “for as long as it takes and as intensely as needed.”

Ukraine's delegation was led in Luxembourg by deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration Olga Stefanishyna. “This is a truly historical moment for my country. All the nation stands as one behind this decision,” she told reporters as she arrived for the ceremony.

Stefanishyna said the hope embodied in the opening of the talks will give Ukraine's citizens “the moral power to continue withstanding” the Russian invasion.

The intergovernmental conference officially started the process of aligning the country’s laws and standards with those of the 27-nation bloc, which is notably concerned about corruption in Ukraine. However, the actual negotiations are unlikely to begin for a few months.

Both Ukraine and Moldova applied to join the EU in the days and weeks after Russia invaded in February 2022. By June 2022, EU leaders had quickly made it all official. But things have moved more slowly since then for Kyiv and membership, if it comes, might be years away.

Türkiye's accession talks have lasted almost two decades without result.

Still, starting the talks process is sending another strong signal of solidarity with Ukraine beyond the financial support the EU has provided, which officials estimate at around 100 billion euros ($107 billion). It’s also a show of support for Moldova, which has faced its own challenges with Russia.

Candidate countries must bring their laws and standards into line with those of the EU in 35 policy areas, known as chapters, ranging from the free movement of goods through fisheries, taxation, energy and the environment to judicial rights and security.

Unanimous agreement must be given by all 27 member countries to open or close chapters, providing ample opportunity for EU nations to demand more work or to delay proceedings.

Hungary, which takes over the EU’s rotating presidency from Belgium in July, has routinely put the brakes on EU and NATO support for Ukraine.

“We are still at the beginning of the screening process. It’s very difficult to say at what stage Ukraine is in. From what I see here, as we speak, they are very far from meeting the accession criteria,” Hungarian Minister for European Affairs Janos Boka said as he arrived at the venue.

Bordering EU members Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, Ukraine would overtake France to become the largest member of the bloc if it joined, shifting its center of gravity further eastward. As a top grain producer its entry would have a huge impact on EU agriculture policy.

Together with Moldova, Ukraine stands in a long line of EU hopefuls — Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Türkiye — with years-long membership aspirations and which have felt left behind by Kyiv’s rapid progress.

Ukraine wants to join by 2030, but it must carry out dozens of institutional and legal reforms first. That daunting list is led by steps to combat corruption and includes broad reforms to public administration and judiciary.