Israel has been pushing Italy — the last European Union holdout against new Iran sanctions — to change its policy, according to local media reports on Tuesday night.
Senior officials disclosed that earlier this month Foreign Ministry Director General Yuval Rotem called in Italian Ambassador to Israel Gianluigi Benedetti to express Yerushalayim’s dissatisfaction with the Italian opposition.
All 28 member states of the EU must agree in order to approve new sanctions against Iran, and Italy is reportedly the only country which continues to balk at the proposal.
The Italian ambassador told Rotem his country believes that the timing is not right for fresh sanctions. Rotem pressed Benedetti to urge Italy to re-consider the policy. Accordingly, it was agreed that an Israeli delegation will go to Rome to discuss the matter in greater depth with Italian officials.
A senior Israeli official opined that Italy’s reluctance to go along is based on economic considerations, not political ones. Italian companies have contracts in Iran worth billions of dollars, which could be jeopardized by additional sanctions.
The sanctions at issue were formulated by Britain, France and Germany, to discourage Iran’s missile program as well as Iranian military activities in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen. If the EU backs it, it would be a bargaining chip in trying to persuade the Trump administration that Europe is serious about curbing Iran, and that it’s worthwhile for the U.S. to remain in the Iran nuclear agreement.