Europe vows to keep Iran nuclear deal alive but offers no guarantees

Clay Curtis
May 16, 2018

Mr Trump's announcement last week that he was withdrawing the U.S. from the landmark Iran deal inflamed regional tensions and threw European investments from oil to aerospace into jeopardy.

Lavrov also voiced support for Iran's right to defend its "legitimate interests" as part of the agreement, which removed nuclear sanctions against Iran in early 2016 in exchange for certain limits to its civilian nuclear activities.

Bolton struck a hawkish tone with his comments in an interview with CNN's "State of the Union" program.

While withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on May 8, President Donald Trump called the current agreement structure "decaying and rotten".

European firms, especially those from France and Germany, rushed to invest in Iran following the 2015 agreement, under which Tehran agreed to freeze its nuclear programme in return for the repeal of punishing worldwide sanctions.

The new agreement would replace the Iran nuclear accord, which Mr. Trump formally abandoned last week but which the leaders of Britain, France and Germany have vowed to preserve.

"So we will have the meeting with the three foreign ministers tomorrow and then we will also have a meeting with the foreign minister of Iran".

The pair will be joined by German foreign minister Heiko Maas in Brussels.

The EU, which along with Germany, France, Britain, Russia, China and the United States, signed the nuclear accord with Iran, does have some steps it can take to shield European business in Iran. "It depends on the conduct of other governments".

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"So far we have had very positive signals from signatories of the deal. but what is important is for Europeans to find a way to protect their investors from U.S. penalties (when they invest in Iran)", a senior Iranian diplomat said.

For several years now, the main foreign policy goal of America's two main allies in the Middle East, Israel and Syria, has been to draw the United States into a war with Iran.

In a tweet on Sunday, Trump wrote: "Remember how badly Iran was behaving with the Iran Deal in place. Now, that will not happen!"

When he quit the deal last week, US President Donald Trump gave businesses a maximum of six months to wind up operations in Iran or face swingeing penalties under American sanctions.

Iranian officials have said they hope Europe will work with them to preserve the deal. The minister said he wanted France, Germany and Britain to reach out to the USA administration and ask for "exemptions, additional deadlines, or to respect the contracts that have been agreed in good faith by our businesses in Iran". The conditions Washington has set for Tehran to meet are utterly unrealistic. On Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron told Trump in a telephone call that he was anxious about stability in the Middle East, according to Macron's office.

Bolton told Fox News in January that the United States should increase economic pressure on Tehran and provide support to government opponents.

"(European) cooperation with Russian Federation, which until recently seemed impossible because of the Skripal (spy poisoning) case, with the expulsion of diplomats and the reduction of contact, is now receiving a fresh boost", consultant Andrei Baklitski of the PIR Center NGO said.

"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 U.S. National Security Advisor.

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