Iran and Europe try to save nu­clear deal

Ira­nian For­eign Min­is­ter held a ‘good and con­struc­tive’ meet­ing with EU for­eign pol­icy chief Federica Mogherini, adding that talks with the three Euro­pean coun­tries would con­tinue in the next two weeks

Times of Oman - - WORLD/OMAN -

BRUS­SELS: Europe and Iran sought a com­mon front on Tues­day to save the nu­clear deal with­out the United States, al­though some diplo­mats doubted pri­vately it can sur­vive the reim­po­si­tion of US sanc­tions or­dered by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Ira­nian For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif ar­rived in Brus­sels for a meet­ing with his Bri­tish, French and Ger­man coun­ter­parts later on Tues­day, shortly be­fore Wash­ing­ton an­nounced ex­tra sanc­tions on Ira­nian fi­nan­cial of­fi­cials.

Zarif held a “good and con­struc­tive” meet­ing with Euro­pean Union for­eign pol­icy chief Federica Mogherini, adding that talks with the three Euro­pean coun­tries would con­tinue in the next two weeks.

“We are on the right path to move for­ward,” he said. “What­ever (is) de­cided should pre­serve and guar­an­tee Iran’s rights.”

De­spite the pri­vate doubts among many Euro­pean diplo­mats, their gov­ern­ments will say that they are stick­ing by the 2015 ac­cord that gave Tehran sanc­tions re­lief in re­turn for an end to its nu­clear am­bi­tions.

Iran’s nu­clear chief Ali Ak­bar Salehi was quoted by Fars news agency as say­ing he was not op­ti­mistic on the prospects of the talks with the Euro­peans. The deal be­tween Iran and six world pow­ers lifted most in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions in 2016 in re­turn for Tehran curb­ing its nu­clear pro­gramme, un­der strict sur­veil­lance by the United Na­tions, to stock­pile en­riched ura­nium for a pos­si­ble atomic bomb.

Trump de­nounced the ac­cord, com­pleted un­der his pre­de­ces­sor Barack Obama, as a “hor­ri­ble, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made” as it did not cover Iran’s bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­gramme or its role in Mid­dle East con­flicts.

The deal’s pro­po­nents say it is cru­cial to fore­stalling a nu­clear Iran and pre­vent­ing wider war in the Mid­dle East. French For­eign Min­is­ter Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Tues­day the Mid­dle East was ex­plo­sive and could be on the cusp of war.

Mogherini, who chaired the fi­nal stretch of 12 years of ne­go­ti­a­tions to clinch the ac­cord, said: “We will all save it to­gether.”

EU diplo­mats said they needed some time to un­der­stand the US po­si­tion.

“One of the ques­tions that we need to ask the Amer­i­cans is whether their fi­nal ob­jec­tive is to make the Ira­ni­ans yield on its nu­clear pro­gramme or to get rid of the regime,” said a se­nior French of­fi­cial, ac­knowl­edg­ing that Paris was con­cerned by the ide­o­log­i­cal shift in Wash­ing­ton since John Bolton was ap­pointed US Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor.

Those com­ments were echoed by For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris Johnson who told par­lia­ment that regime change in Iran was not a pol­icy Bri­tain should pur­sue. French diplo­mats said they also wanted to as­sess Iran’s in­ten­tions in stick­ing to the deal, but also to see how open it was to se­ri­ous talks on other Western con­cerns, in­clud­ing its bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­gramme and re­gional ac­tiv­i­ties.

An­nul­ment of the ac­cord could tip the bal­ance of power in favour of hard­lin­ers look­ing to con­strain prag­ma­tist Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani’s abil­ity to open up to the West. If it falls apart, he could be­come po­lit­i­cally vul­ner­a­ble for pro­mot­ing the ac­cord.

Supreme Leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, not Rouhani, has the last say on all state mat­ters. Euro­pean diplo­mats ac­knowl­edged that the EU sup­port, how­ever sin­cere, risked look­ing hol­low af­ter Trump reim­posed an ar­ray of wide sanc­tions last week on Iran that will hit Euro­pean com­pa­nies in­vest­ing there.

Full story @ time­so­fo­man.com/world

Monasse/Pool via Reuters Thierry

UP­BEAT: Iran’s For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif at­tends a meet­ing with Euro­pean Union for­eign pol­icy chief Federica Mogherini at the EU Coun­cil in Brus­sels, Bel­gium, May 15, 2018.

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