EghtesadOnline: European Union foreign ministers on Monday debated ways of keeping the Iran nuclear deal alive after Tehran increased its enrichment work last week as part of a plan to reduce compliance with the accord.
At talks in Brussels, Belgium, the EU powers that signed the 2015 nuclear pact—Britain, France and Germany—were expected to signal what action should be taken as the bloc awaited a new report from the International Atomic Energy Agency later Monday on whether Iran is still complying with its commitments, AP reported.
Europe has been trying to save the deal from collapse since the United States unilaterally pulled out of it last year and reimposed severe sanctions on Tehran.
"It's a great agreement and we need to keep it alive," Financial Tribune quoted Slovakia’s Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak as saying.
The EU built a safeguard, known as INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges), to help Tehran receive its oil revenues (restricted by US embargo on banking transactions with Iran), but it has not been effective.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said recently that "this financial system has been suggested too late and [it] operates at a low level. It has not yet been fully implemented," Sputnik reported.
He also stressed that this system will be successful if the Europeans buy Iranian oil as the country's main export to Europe.
"If not, there will be not a large amount of money left for trade with this tool," he said.
A system is also in place to protect European companies doing business in Iran from US sanctions, but many remain reluctant because they fear being shut out of the more lucrative American market if they do.
European initiatives have failed to protect Iran's economy against the US sanctions, prompting Iranian authorities to take reciprocal action.
Iran began to gradually go beyond limits set in the nuclear accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, to restore balance to the agreement and induce European parties to take effective measures.
The fourth phase of the plan was initiated last week, in which uranium gas was injected into centrifuges at Fordow nuclear site to produce low-enriched uranium to fuel nuclear power plants.
Under the deal, Tehran was not supposed to do this at the site until 2030.
Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said he was "very worried about Iran’s behavior".
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also said, "We want to preserve the [deal], but Iran must finally return to its commitments and comply with them, otherwise we will reserve the right to use all mechanisms that are set out in the agreement."
One option could be to trigger the dispute mechanism in the agreement, which would open a window of up to 30 days to resolve the problem. Some are even calling on the Europeans to impose their own sanctions on Iran.
"Sanctions, sanctions, sanctions. We're not going to solve the problem like that," Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said. "Right now, we should wait for the report from the IAEA to see where we stand."