Spain’s FM quits Iran trip over Ukraine crisis

Spain's foreign minister will cut short his visit to Iran on Sunday in order to attend EU talks on the crisis in Ukraine, the Spanish embassy in Tehran, news agency AFP has reported.

Spain's FM quits Iran trip over Ukraine crisis
Unidentified armed and uniformed men guard the Crimean Cabinet of Ministers building in Simferopol on Sunday. Photo: Genya Savilov/AFP

"He will leave this afternoon for Brussels," a diplomatic source said.

Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, who arrived in Tehran on Saturday for a planned four-day visit, is to attend an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday.

"We are concerned about the territorial integrity of Ukraine," Garcia-Margallo said in a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif

Zarif said Iran too was "concerned about the developments in Ukraine."

"We hope there will be a peaceful settlement to the crisis," he added.   

The EU session was called after the Russian parliament approved President Vladimir Putin's request for sending troops into neighbouring Ukraine's Crimea region, triggering an international outcry.

US President Barack Obama warned Moscow on Friday that there would be "costs" if Russia intervenes militarily while German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she is 'worried' about events in the Crimea.

Under the threat of a Russian intervention, the Western-backed interim government in Kiev has put the military on full combat alert.

It also asked the US-led NATO alliance to help defend its "territorial integrity and sovereignty."

In Tehran, the foreign policy adviser to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appeared to blame NATO for the crisis.

"NATO is greedily eyeing Ukraine under the pretext of it joining the military alliance," Ali Akbar Velayati told the Mehr news agency.

"We hope their interference is terminated."   

NATO has called for emergency talks Sunday in Brussels on the "grave situation" in Ukraine.

NATO set up a joint commission with Ukraine in 1997 to oversee relations, and in 2008 agreed that Kiev could eventually be considered for membership of the Cold War-era alliance.

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Spain backtracks and will send weapons to ‘Ukraine resistance’

Spain will supply "offensive military hardware" to Ukraine following Russia's invasion of its pro-Western neighbour, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told parliament on Wednesday, only two days after he'd ruled out that Spain would send weapons to Ukraine separately from the EU.

Spain backtracks and will send weapons to 'Ukraine resistance'

“I want to announce to you that Spain will also deliver offensive military hardware to the Ukrainian resistance,” Sánchez said.

Until now, Spain’s Prime Minister stressed he would send military support only as part of a wider package unveiled by the European Union on Sunday, in which Brussels agreed to unblock €450 million ($500 million) for member states to buy arms for Ukraine.

Before Sánchez’s announcement, Spain was left as the only large EU country that was not going to send weapons to Ukrainian forces individually in the form of a bilateral agreement.

Members of governing coalition party Unidas Podemos have criticised that the EU is contributing weaponry to the conflict, which may explain why Sánchez was dragging his feet on the matter.

But the Spanish government has finally backtracked and will send “offensive military hardware” to the Ukrainian resistance.

In an interview on Wednesday with Antena3 television, Defence Minister Margarita Robles said that “in this first shipment that will go aboard two planes, we expect to send 1,370 anti-tank grenade launchers, 700,000 rifle and machine-gun rounds, and light machine guns”. 

The only EU nations that won’t send weapons directly to Ukraine are currently Ireland, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Malta and Cyprus.

Sánchez said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine “is a brutal attempt to stop the construction of a European space based on values radically opposed to the authoritarianism he represents”.

The announcement comes a day after Spain said it would send 150 additional troops to Latvia as part of a wider Nato build-up in the Baltic region.

READ MORE: Spain to take in Ukrainian refugees and send troops to Latvia

The country already has 350 troops in the alliance’s enhanced forward presence battlegroup in Latvia.

The United States, Canada and more than a dozen European countries have so far responded to Ukrainian appeals for military equipment.