Merkel defends Iran deal as EU is set for sanctions showdown with the US
▶ German leader says maintaining the deal is best way to work with security challenges posed by Tehran
Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has mounted a strong defence of the Iran nuclear deal after the Iranian foreign minister said he was reassured by EU members in Brussels that it would survive the US withdrawal.
Mrs Merkel told German legislators that staying in the agreement was the best way of dealing with the security challenges posed by Tehran’s regional aggression and military build-up.
“It’s anything but ideal but it’s not right to cancel this agreement in this situation now,” she said. “This does not mean we are happy about everything Iran is doing.
“We have to talk about its role in Syria, its ballistic missile programme, other issues, but the question is whether you can talk better if you terminate an agreement or if you stay in it. We say you can talk better if you remain in it.”
The comments came just hours after talks between European and Iranian representatives in Brussels in the first such meeting since US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal last week.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the talks had been constructive and technical teams would present proposals to protect the deal from external pressure.
“From next week, intensive expert meetings will start in Europe,” Mr Zarif said. “They must do the work, but they will consult us so that we are sure the actions they take are sufficient from our point of view.”
Despite the insistence that the European end of the deal can be kept alive, the threat of being caught in the US sanctions net is a grave concern for companies and banks that are prepared to do business with Iran.
French energy giant Total, which took a controlling stake in Iran’s South Pars 11 project last year, said yesterday that it would not invest further in the country without a sanctions waiver because of its large business operations in America and its reliance on US banks.
Boris Johnson, the British Foreign Secretary, asked the US to refrain from actions “that could prevent the remaining parties to the agreement from meeting their commitments under the deal”, and for sanctions relief on “legitimate trade”.
Mr Zarif also met Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, in Brussels. Ms Mogherini said officials had already begun drawing up measures to circumvent US sanctions, which would be reimposed in coming months.
After the talks, Ms Mogherini suggested that the European trio would not back down.
Europe has the most to lose from a direct confrontation with Washington over Iran … its very self-respect
Cornelius Adebahr of Carnegie Europe said: “As the main facilitator of the talks leading up to the agreement, the EU is its guardian of sorts.
“Moreover, Europe has the most to lose from a direct confrontation with Washington over Iran.
“The bottom line its very self-respect as an international player is at stake.”
Angela Merkel says it’s ‘not right to cancel this agreement in this situation now’