EU foreign policy chief says Iran nuclear deal “more and more difficult” to save and contacts signatories

By bne IntelliNews November 11, 2019

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on November 11 she was contacting the signatories to the Iran nuclear deal to decide what to do next about the accord as it is becoming “more and more difficult” to save.

“We might have a Joint Commission meeting in the coming days,” Mogherini said, referring to the forum where the signatories of the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Pan of Action (JCPOA), can discuss difficulties and potentially pave a path towards exploring sanctions.

A senior EU diplomat told Reuters that the Joint Commission meeting in Vienna could be next week at the level of political directors.

Under the accord, designed to bar Tehran’s way to any possible development of a nuclear weapons, Iran in late 2015 agreed to curb its nuclear development programme in exchange for the removal of major international sanctions. But with the US having unilaterally pulled out of the deal in May 2015—and having introduced American sanctions which are tougher than anything Iran faced before the nuclear deal was signed and from which Europe has offered Iran no real protection, despite being against the Trump administration’s sanctions-led “maximum pressure” policy directed at the Islamic Republic—Iran is incrementally moving towards the deal ‘exit door’.

The abandonment of the previous “strategic patience” approach shown towards the Europeans by Iran has, however, still not produced any meaningful assistance from Europe to shield the Iranian economy from the American sanctions and Iran’s non-compliance steps, which last week reached the stage at which the Iranians resumed low-grade uranium enrichment at their underground Fordow nuclear plant, are getting to the point of severity where the EU’s big three—the UK, France and Germany—will have to come up with a strong response or risk losing face.

Tehran at the weekend added that it has developed the capability to refine uranium up to 60% of fissile purity, not far off the 90% level needed for nuclear bomb fuel.

Any of the remaining signatories to the JCPOA—Iran, the UK, France, Germany, China and Russia—can trigger a nuclear deal dispute resolution process that could culminate at the UN Security Council with a “snapback” of global UN sanctions on Iran.

The EU countries want the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to first verify Iran’s latest announcements on enrichment, EU diplomats have said.

Iran has always said it only wants nuclear energy for civilian purposes and is forbidden by Shia Islam from using a nuclear bomb.

November 11 also saw German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas say Germany, Britain and France should be ready to consider starting moves to reinstate international sanctions on Iran over breaches of the nuclear deal,

“Iran must finally return to its commitments [under the 2015 accord],” Maas said before a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Brussels. “Otherwise we will reserve the right to use all mechanisms specified in the deal [for sanctions to be reimposed].”

The US Trump administration has demanded that the JCPOA be toughened up to place even more restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities, curtail its ballistic missile development programme and put a stop to the backing that Tehran gives to allied militias in various Middle East conflict zones.

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