EghtesadOnline: Iran's top diplomat said on Tuesday that the European powers' activation of the 2015 nuclear deal's dispute resolution mechanism was "legally groundless" and a "strategic mistake" in political terms.
Mohammad Javad Zarif made the statement in a meeting with German Minister of State Niels Annen in the Indian capital New Delhi, where they discussed an array of subjects, including the status of Iran's nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, ISNA reported.
Foreign ministers of the three European parties to JCPOA, namely France, Germany and Britain, referred Iran's compliance issue to the deal's Joint Commission under the dispute resolution mechanism on Tuesday to address implementation problems, according to Financial Tribune.
The mechanism could end up in the United Nations Security Council with a so-called "snapback" of global sanctions on Tehran.
They did it about a week after Iran took its final step away from JCPOA obligations in response to the United States' withdrawal in 2018 and its reimposition of sweeping sanctions that European parties' have failed to compensate for.
Zarif censured Europe's inaction in fulfilling its commitments, as a result of which Iran has been deprived of its benefits under the deal.
"We triggered the mechanism, nothing happened. They did not even show a reaction," he said later during his address to the Raisina Dialogue conference in India.
A year after the US exit, Iran reduced its compliance gradually and over 10 months to give Europe time to take practical measures for protecting its JCPOA interests.
The three European countries said in their Tuesday statement that they do not accept the argument that Iran formally triggered the mechanism and it is, therefore, not entitled to reduce its compliance.
They added, however, that they launched the dispute resolution process "in good faith with the overarching objective of preserving the JCPOA".
The German official also stressed that the measure is not aimed at breaking up the deal.
"Our approach is toward defending and supporting the JCPOA, and the essence of the three European ministers' letter is not the destruction of the deal," Annen told Zarif.
Best Multilateral Agreement
Speaking at the Indian conference, Zarif stressed that JCPOA was one of the best possible multilateral agreements, but the European parties could not adhere to any of their commitments in sectors, such as oil sale, insurance, aviation, shipping and industrial cooperation.
"The European Union is violating its JCPOA commitments while the US is independently violating its own," he said.
Keeping the window of diplomacy open, Iran has announced that its nuclear steps are immediately reversible once its economic problems are addressed.
"We have said if Europe returns [the deal] to its previous status, we will do the same. We have lost hundreds of billions of dollars [due to sanctions], if they give us these hundreds of billion dollars back, we will revoke our decisions," Zarif said.
Europe has taken steps to facilitate trade with Iran, but the mechanism they devised for this purpose turned out to be a dud.
The bloc has also made mediatory efforts to address the conflict between Iran and the US, but the attempts were futile as neither side agreed to compromise.
Zarif said Iran favors diplomacy but is not interested in negotiation with the US.
"We had an agreement with America which it violated. If we have a Trump deal, how long will it last?"
Russia, another signatory of the deal, slammed Europe's move on Wednesday, describing it as "a destructive step” that dramatically reduces the chances of preserving JCPOA.
"In our contacts with them, we are explaining why we see their intention to launch the mechanism as counterproductive, as it generally has neither legal nor procedural nor political grounds," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said, Sputnik reported.
He added that Moscow is concerned over the European nations' decision to "escalate", despite their claims of wishing to save the nuclear pact.
The United Nations, for its part, called on all parties to work toward preserving the deal.
Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN secretary-general, said in a press briefing on Tuesday that the UN's position is unchanged.
"We continue to call on parties to work together to do whatever they can to preserve the JCPOA through a constructive diplomatic dialogue and all other member states to work effectively with the JCPOA participants toward the preservation of the plan," he said, the UN website reported.
The UN also called on Iran to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency on its nuclear program and implementation of all its nuclear-related commitments made under JCPOA, he added.
Iran has said its cooperation with IAEA will continue, despite its rollback of JCPOA compliance.