Iran FM Meets Mogherini as Part of Efforts to Save Nuclear Deal

Iran FM Meets Mogherini as Part of Efforts to Save Nuclear Deal

Tuesday, 15 May, 2018 - 09:45
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif held talks in Brussels in Tuesday with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini as part of his ongoing tour of signatories of the 2015 nuclear deal.

"It was a nice and constructive meeting," Zarif was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency.

He is due to meet with counterparts from Britain, France and Germany on Tuesday.

Iran is scrambling to salvage the deal after US President Donald Trump announced last week that his country will be withdrawing from it and reimposing sanctions against Tehran.

Tehran has warned it is preparing to resume "industrial-scale" uranium enrichment "without any restrictions" unless Europe can provide solid guarantees that it can maintain the economic benefits it gained from the nuclear agreement despite the US reimposing sanctions.

The EU insists the deal is working, pointing to repeated UN inspections verifying Iran’s compliance with its side of the bargain, and Mogherini's spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told AFP ahead Zarif's arrival that "we must do our utmost to preserve it".

But European diplomats have sought to play down expectations of Tuesday's meeting, stressing the enormous challenge of finding a way around US sanctions punishing foreign businesses trading with Iran, which have global reach.

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 program in return for the repeal of punishing international sanctions.

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

Zarif's meetings in Brussels cap a whirlwind global tour, including trips to both Russia and China, two other signatory nations, in a bid to bolster support.

French President Emmanuel Macron held phone talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, according to a Kremlin statement, which said they had "confirmed Russia and France's commitment to make the deal work".

Zarif was in Moscow to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday, a day after visiting leaders in Beijing.

"The final aim of these negotiations is to seek assurances that the interests of the Iranian nation will be defended," Zarif said at the start of a meeting.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington still wants to work with Europe to counter Iran's "malign behavior" and was working hard to thrash out a more wide-ranging deal with its European partners.

But while he talked up the prospect of renewed coordination with America's allies, another top aide reminded Europe its companies could face sanctions if they continue to do business with the Middle Eastern power.

Pompeo spoke to German, French and British counterparts in recent days to discuss cooperation over Iran, a State Department spokeswoman said on Monday.

“The Secretary underlined that the United States and our European allies share strong interests in preventing Iran from ever developing a nuclear weapon and in countering the Iranian regime’s destabilizing activities in the region,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

“He is hopeful we can continue strong cooperation,” she added.

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