Britain yesterday said there was a “small window” of time to save the Iran nuclear deal, as Tehran signaled it would resume its nuclear program — seen by the West as a cover for making atomic bombs — if Europe failed to do more to salvage the pact.
US-Iranian tensions have worsened since US President Donald Trump last year abandoned the nuclear deal under which Tehran agreed to curtail its atomic program in return for relief from economic sanctions crippling its economy.
“Iran is still a good year away from developing a nuclear bomb. There is still some closing, but small window to keep the deal alive,” British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Jeremy Hunt told reporters on arrival for a foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels.
The meeting would seek to flesh out how to convince Iran and the US to reduce tensions and initiate a dialogue amid fears that the 2015 deal is close to collapse.
In reaction to the re-imposition of tough US sanctions, Tehran has reduced some of its nuclear commitments under the deal, leading the European parties to the pact —France, Britain and Germany — to warn it about not fully complying with the terms.
When asked whether the European powers would seek to penalize Iran for breaking parts of its nuclear commitments, Hunt said they would seek a meeting of the parties to deal with it.
“We will and there’s something called a joint commission, which is the mechanism set up in the deal which is what happens when one side thinks the other side has breached it, that will happen very soon,” he said.
The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said the nation would return to the situation before the nuclear deal unless European countries fulfilled their obligations.
“These actions are not taken out of stubbornness, but to give diplomacy a chance so the other side comes on its own and fulfils its duties,” agency spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said. “And if the Europeans and America don’t want to fulfil their commitments we will create a balance in this deal by reducing commitments and return the situation to four years ago.”
Iran said the European nations must do more to guarantee it the economic benefits it was meant to receive in return for curbs to its nuclear program under the deal.
French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian said Europe had to remain united in trying to preserve the deal, adding that Tehran should reverse its decision not to comply with parts of it.
Hunt said that while he agreed with the US on finding a long-term solution to Iran’s regional influence, he disagreed on Washington’s current approach and said Europe should do its utmost to help Iran and its economy if it sticks to its nuclear commitments.
The Europeans are still trying to set up their Instex mechanism, a conduit for barter-based trade with Iran, but an equivalent Iranian mechanism has yet to be established.
Should the mechanism go ahead, it would initially only deal in products such as food, which is not subject to US sanctions.
Diplomats have said that in any case they fear US blowback, while Iranian officials have repeatedly said Instex must include oil sales or provide substantial credit facilities for it to be beneficial.
“We will do what we can to guarantee that there is no economic embargo against Iran and that European companies can continue working there,” Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell told reporters.
“It’s very difficult because US laws applied in an extraterritorial manner, in a way that we don’t recognize, make it difficult,” he said, adding that Spain would join the Instex mechanism.
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