Wed, Feb 05, 2020 - Page 6 News List

Top EU diplomat visits Iran to de-escalate tensions

GIVE AND TAKE:The Iranian president said Iran was ready to cooperate to resolve problems surrounding the nuclear deal if other parties upheld their commitments


High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell on Monday held talks in the Iranian capital during a mission aimed at lowering tensions over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

Borrell’s trip, his first to Iran since taking office, follows a spike in tensions between archenemies Washington and Tehran after the Jan. 3 assassination in Baghdad of a top Iranian general in a US drone strike.

Borrell started his visit by meeting Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif, discussing the situation in the region and ways of reducing tensions, as well as a 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Borrell later met separately with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani.

The nuclear deal between Iran, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — Britain, China, France, the US and Russia — and Germany offered Tehran a partial reprieve from crippling international sanctions.

However, it has been crumbling since US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2018, and Washington has since stepped up sanctions and a campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran.

Tehran has gradually stepped back from its own commitments under the deal, while military tensions with the US brought the two countries to the brink of a full-blown confrontation last month.

The European parties to the agreement last month triggered a complaint mechanism under the deal in a bid to press Tehran to return to full implementation.

However, Borrell played up the future of the deal and the commitment of France, Germany and Britain to try and keep it alive.

“The activation of the dispute settlement mechanism ... doesn’t mean that these countries want to go to the Security Council in order to definitely cancel the nuclear deal,” he told reporters.

“All of them insisted on the idea that this was not a measure oriented to finish with the deal, but to try to keep it alive, to give time to negotiations,” Borrell said.

Rouhani was quoted in a statement as telling Borrell that Iran “was ready ... to cooperate with the European Union to resolve problems” facing the deal.

Tehran is also ready to “return to the commitments” when the other parties “uphold their commitments,” the statement added.

Borrell last month said that a joint commission overseeing the deal, including representatives of all the countries involved, would meet this month, without giving a precise date.

Washington has accused Tehran of seeking a nuclear weapon, which Iran has always denied.

The US withdrawal from the deal and its reimposition of biting sanctions deprived Iran of keenly awaited economic benefits.

The renewed US sanctions have almost entirely isolated Iran from the international financial system, driven away oil buyers and plunged the country into a severe recession.

Under the deal struck in Vienna, Iran agreed to drastically reduce its nuclear activities and to submit to a tailor-made inspection regime by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

However, since May last year Iran has progressively scaled back its commitments in response to the US sanctions and Europe’s inability to circumvent them.

Iran is now producing uranium enriched beyond the 3.67 percent set by the agreement and no longer adheres to a limit of 300kg imposed on its enriched uranium stocks.

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