NUCLEAR DEAL ON LINE AT CRUNCH MEETING BETWEEN US AND IRAN
US secretary of state’s first face-to-face encounter with his counterpart since Trump became president
Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, will on Wednesday meet Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Zarif for the first time, to review implementation of the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran.
The US has warned that the deal signed by president Barack Obama, which puts curbs on Iranian nuclear activity for 15 years, is not working properly and warned Washington could withdraw as early as next month. Mr Trump has to certify that Iran is meeting its end of the deal every three months, and the next deadline looms in October.
The New York meeting at the UN general assembly will be closely watched for signs that Mr Tillerson remains committed to the deal.
The gathering will be chaired by Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, and include officials from Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany. All six countries conducted years of talks with Iran to conclude the accord.
State department officials said there were no plans for Mr Tillerson to privately meet Mr Zarif, a US-educated diplomat who often held talks with John Kerry, the previous secretary of state.
Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president, warned yesterday that European nations would play a vital role in protecting the deal.
He said that the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, had reported Iran was in compliance with the inspections regime.
“The accord can serve as a good model for settling the complex international and regional issues,” Mr Rouhani said.
“We believe that the only entity that can confirm Iran’s commitment to its obligations is the International Atomic Energy Agency and according to its reports, the Islamic Republic has complied with all of its obligations.”
He is due to arrive in New York for the general assembly and, in contrast to recent years,
he is expected to be on the defensive over the deal.
The New York Times reported last week that the Trump government was partial to keeping the deal but increasing the pressure with other sanctions.
“We are not going to stand for what they’re doing to this country,” Mr Trump said.
“They have violated so many different elements but they’ve also violated the spirit of that deal.
“And you will see what we’ll be doing in October. It will be very evident.”
Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary general, has called for the US to renew its commitment to the deal at the summit.
“It’s contributed to an important de-escalation at the moment and is a factor of stability,”
Mr Guterres said. “And it’s my opinion that all parties should do everything possible for this agreement to be preserved.”
The agreement remains a focus of considerable distrust, particularly as Iran’s aggressive foreign policy has fuelled instability around the Middle East. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said an attack on the deal would be at the heart of his address to the UN.
Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the UN, has called the deal flawed but added that it might be counter-productive for the US to leave the agreement.
“But the deal was constructed in a way that makes leaving it less attractive,” Ms Haley said. “It gave Iran what it wanted up front in exchange for a temporary promise to deliver what we want.”
Iranian officials have said it is possible the US would withdraw from the deal but that Iran would, along with the European and other parties to the deal, agree to continue the nuclear freeze.
Experts believe there is an opportunity for US pressure to gain concessions from Iran in specific areas, particularly more extensive inspections and a revision of the sunset clause that lifts the curbs.