EU Explores Ways to Keep Nuclear Deal Afloat
EghtesadOnline: European foreign ministers and EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, met on Monday in Brussels, Belgium, to thrash out ways to keep the 2015 Iran nuclear deal alive, following the United States' unilateral withdrawal from the deal, reimposition of sanctions against Iran and intensification of tensions by deploying military vessels to the Persian Gulf.
Mogherini stressed that the European Union fully supports the international nuclear accord and wants rival powers to avoid any further escalation of tensions over the issue.
“We will continue to support it as much as we can with all our instruments and all our political will,” Mogherini told reporters before the meeting, Reuters reported.
The US renewed its sanctions and has been ratcheting up its economic and military pressure to force Tehran into entering talks and making further concessions on its nuclear, missile and regional activity, according to Financial Tribune.
Iran has refused to renegotiate unless the US lifted the sanctions and apologized.
As other parties to the deal proved unable to ward off US blows, Tehran declared that it will stop complying with two of its commitments under the deal, giving the signatories 60 days to come up with a plan to protect its oil and banking sectors.
European countries rejected ultimatums from Tehran, but reiterated their commitment to the deal.
The recent talks, according to Mogherini, are focused on "how to continue to best support the full implementation of the nuclear deal".
Deal Essential for Security
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters in Brussels that "we in Europe agree that this treaty is necessary for our security", AP reported.
He added that the Europeans "are working on the assumption that Iran won't withdraw step by step from this treaty, but rather meet all of its commitments".
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was quoted as saying by ISNA that "although the US approach of increasing pressure and sanctions [on Iran] is not to our benefit, this kind of ultimatum from Tehran in our view is not appropriate either".
A day earlier, he had described Iran's threat to resume nuclear work as a "bad reaction", calling on Tehran to show "political maturity".
Le Drian had also warned against a "bellicose spiral", stressing the "responsibility" of the Americans and the importance of dialogue with Tehran.
Europeans have taken steps to keep financial supply lines open to Iran to offset the impact of US sanctions on Iran's troubled economy.
They set up a special purpose vehicle known as INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) in late January to enable non-dollar trade with Iran, though it has not been activated yet.
"We have already initiated concrete steps in recent months, especially as concerns the payment channel and INSTEX. Now this instrument needs to be further operationalized and used in order to continue implementing [the nuclear agreement]," Maas said.
Britain's Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt warned of the risks of an unintended conflict between the US and Iran over the unraveling nuclear deal.
"We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident with an escalation that is unintended," he told reporters in Brussels.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also canceled his planned visit to Moscow and headed instead to Brussels to discuss what he described as "recent threatening actions and statements" by Iran with his European counterparts. He presented no evidence to back up his anti-Iran allegations.
Pompeo's change of travel plan took place at the last minute, but he was to proceed as planned to the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders to discuss Iran.
Mogherini said she was told overnight about Pompeo's decision, saying "he is always welcome".