European Union foreign ministers are expected to discuss possible sanctions against Iran, as well as the bloc's relations with Russia, when they meet in Brussels on March 14.
The gathering of the European Foreign Affairs Council, which includes foreign ministers from all EU member states, comes as the EU is also examining reengagement with Iran following its nuclear deal with world powers in July 2015.
France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on March 13 that EU sanctions against Iran would be adopted, "if necessary," in response to Iran's recent ballistic-missile tests.
Ayrault made the remarks after meeting in Paris with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini, and the foreign ministers of Germany, Britain, and Italy.
The latest ballistic-missile tests by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) took place in early March.
If the missiles are confirmed as capable of carrying nuclear warheads, the tests would violate a United Nations Security Council resolution.
In January, the United States imposed sanctions against 11 companies and individuals over ballistic missiles tests in late 2015 by Iran.
Iran maintains its missiles are not designed to carry nuclear weapons and says it will continue missile development.
Iran's Foreign Ministry said the tests do not violate Iran's nuclear deal with world powers or UN Security Council resolutions.
With a range of 2,000 kilometers, Iran's ballistic missiles would be capable of reaching Israel and U.S. military bases in the Middle East.
The EU ministers on March 14 also were expected to discuss relations with Russia, which have been impacted by the Kremlin’s support for pro-Russia separatists in Ukaine and by a Russia’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Some Western officials have accused Russia of exacerbating Europe’s migrant crisis with military action in Syria in order use refugees as a bargaining chip for the lifting of EU economic sanctions.
The EU’s main economic sanctions against Russia's energy and bank sectors – imposed over Russia’s role in Ukraine’s conflict -- are up for renewal at the end of July.
On March 9, EU ambassadors decided to extend sanctions against Russia for another six months over its illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in March 2014.
Those sanctions include asset freezes and visa bans on 146 people and 37 entities that, according to the EU, have benefited from Russia’s annexation of Crimea or have been responsible for actions against Ukraine's territorial integrity.
That blacklist includes Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, President Vladimir Putin's adviser Sergei Glazyev, and Dmitry Kiselyov, who many regard as the Kremlin's chief propagandist.
It also includes several companies in Crimea, and various battalions formed by the Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Other topics on the agenda of the March 14 foreign ministers‘ gathering in Brussels include the UN-mediated peace talks in Geneva between Syria’s government and moderate Syrian opposition factions.
Those indirect peace talks are due to begin on March 14.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and BBC