Israeli, Greek, Cypriot foreign ministers meet to discuss Iranian terror in Europe

Eli Cohen urges counterparts to work toward EU designation of IRGC as a terror group, days after Greek authorities foiled a suspected Tehran plot to attack Israeli, Jewish targets

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (right) meets with Cyprus' Foreign Minister Dr. Konstantinos Kombos (center) and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias (left)  in Nicosia, Cyprus, on March 31, 2023. (The Israeli Embassy in Cyprus via The Foreign Ministry site)
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (right) meets with Cyprus' Foreign Minister Dr. Konstantinos Kombos (center) and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias (left) in Nicosia, Cyprus, on March 31, 2023. (The Israeli Embassy in Cyprus via The Foreign Ministry site)

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen met with his Greek and Cypriot counterparts on Friday in the Cypriot capital of Nicosia for trilateral discussions on international and regional developments including Russia’s war on Ukraine and the growing threat of Iran’s terror activity on European soil. The meeting came just three days after Greece, with help from the Mossad, foiled a suspected Iranian plot to attack Jewish and Israeli targets in Athens.

The ministers also discussed boosting trilateral cooperation in areas like energy, environmental disaster management, security, and tourism.

In their meeting, Cohen urged his colleagues to work towards designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organization in the European Union, “especially in light of the Iranian attack that was thwarted this week in Greece against Israeli and Jewish targets,” according to a Foreign Ministry readout of the meeting.

The 27-nation bloc has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Iranian officials and organizations — including government ministers, military officers and Iran’s morality police — over human rights abuses, amid a brutal crackdown on protests that erupted in Iran in mid-September after the death, while in custody, of Mahsa Amini. The EU, however, did not move ahead with designating the IRGC a terror group — as the US and Canada have done — despite an appeal from the European Parliament to do so.

Last week, Greek authorities working with the Mossad arrested two Iranian-born Pakistani nationals suspected of planning an attack at a Jewish center in a busy downtown area of Athens. Greece’s Public Order Minister Takis Theodorikakos said it was likely that the two suspects had been offered money by a fixer in Iran to carry out the attack.

In his talks on Friday with Cyprus’ Foreign Minister Dr. Konstantinos Kombos and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, Cohen also pointed to the presence of Iranian drones in and around Ukraine, where Russia has been waging a war since February 2022 and making use of advanced, kamikaze drones manufactured in Iran that crash into civilian and military targets since last fall.

“Iran is a threat to the world. Iranian terrorism harms the Middle East, Ukraine, Europe, and other places,” the minister said, according to the readout.

A man holding an umbrella stands in front of a Jewish center that Greek officials believe was one of the targets of a planned terrorist attack, in central Athens, Tuesday, March 28, 2023. (AP/Thanassis Stavrakis)

According to Channel 12, Cohen told his counterparts that sanctions and diplomacy would not stop Iranian aggression and that Tehran needed a strong military deterrent.

Israel has repeatedly threatened to resort to military action to shut down Iran’s suspected drive toward a nuclear weapon, which it views as an existential threat.

“The only thing that has ever stopped rogue nations from developing nuclear weapons is a credible military threat or a credible military action,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a national security conference in February. “A necessary condition and often a sufficient condition is credible military action. The longer you wait, the harder that becomes. We’ve waited very long.”

Israel reportedly came close to carrying out strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities on multiple occasions under previous Netanyahu governments.

European officials fear that alienating Iran would all but end the slim hopes the bloc might have of resuscitating the Iran nuclear agreement, which has been on ice since the Trump administration withdrew from the internationally-backed accord in 2018. Early US attempts under the Biden administration to revisit the 2015 deal, which eased sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbing its nuclear program, have faltered.

Agencies contributed to this report

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