Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif hailed a meeting with the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini as being ‘highly constructive’ as the two discussed ways to salvage a landmark nuclear deal after US President Donald J. Trump opted to unilaterally withdraw from the accord just over a week ago.
Zarif discussed with Mogherini how Britain, France and Germany – who intend to remain in the deal – are going to ensure that the core tenets of the agreement remain in place, despite Trump’s withdrawal.
In the immediate aftermath of the meeting, Zarif told the media that all sides were “on the right track to ensure that the interests of the JCPOA’s remaining participants, particularly Iran, will be preserved and guaranteed.”
Zarif will later meet with the British, Germany, and French foreign ministers for most robust and comprehensive talks on how to move forward with the deal.
Prior to his visit to Brussels, Zarif made stops in Moscow and Beijing where he was given assurances that Russia and China will continue to defend the deal, while he made it clear that Iran wants to continue reaping the economic benefits that the country has enjoyed since first beginning to comply with the terms of the deal just over two years ago.
While in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Zarif that the remaining signatories of the deal have “legitimate interests in keeping it alive” while all of the relevant parties “need to defend the legitimate interests of each of us together.”
The move has caused a major rift between the main European powers and Trump’s White House, while also heightening tensions with Russia and China – who are also signatories to the pact (officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA). Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping have warned that Trump’s decision could further destabilise global security.
Since announcing his immediate withdrawal, Trump has said he is ready to reinstate the crippling economic sanctions regime that had been imposed on Iran for over a decade within 180 days. Trump also warned his European allies he would impose stiff sanctions on EU companies who either do business in Iran or who opt to honour legally binding business contracts with Iranian companies.
After many years of tense negotiations, the US, UK, France, China, Russia. Germany and Iran agreed on a long-term deal regarding Tehran’s nuclear programme. Under the accord, Iran agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and allow international inspectors to monitor the country’s two nuclear production sites. In return, economic sanctions were lifted and Iran was able to re-enter the global energy and currency markets.
Trump made the decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal despite the recommendations of his own Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis and former Chief of Staff General H.R. McMaster, as well as the entire US intelligence community, who said there was no evidence that Tehran had failed to comply with the deal.
Concerted efforts by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UK Prime Minister Theresa May, and French President Emmanuel Macron also fell on deaf ears as they failed to convince Trump that, despite numerous flaws in certain aspects of the agreement, the existing deal was working.
France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on May 14 that France, Britain, and Germany were determined to save the nuclear deal, saying, “The US leaving an international agreement does not mean that the international agreement is null and void.”
During his withdrawal announcement, Trump claimed Tehran was violating “the spirit of the deal” but failed to specify exactly how the Iranian government had circumvented any of the provisions of the agreement.
Trump has repeatedly bucked the advice of his intelligence community regarding Iran and regularly resorted to his TV reality show campaign rhetoric when discussing the JCPOA, calling the agreement – which was signed by his predecessor Barack Obama – “the worst deal in history”.