Iran nuclear deal in balance as Europeans trigger dispute mechanism

Berlin (dpa) - Britain, France and Germany launched a dispute mechanism against Iran on Tuesday for breaking its commitments under the 2015 nuclear accord, which could ultimately lead to revived sanctions against Tehran.

The European parties to the deal stressed that their move was aimed at saving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as it is formally known, and bringing Iran back into full compliance.

The accord - curbing Tehran's ability to develop a nuclear weapon in return for sweeping sanctions relief - was struck in 2015 between Iran and six key nations. It has been in jeopardy ever since the United States announced its unilateral withdrawal from the deal in 2018 and reimposed stringent economic sanctions.
Iran said last week that it would no longer comply with its obligations under the deal, following the US assassination of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
"We have therefore been left with no choice, given Iran's actions, but to register today our concerns that Iran is not meeting its commitments under the JCPOA and to refer this matter to the Joint Commission under the Dispute Resolution Mechanism," the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany said in a statement.
Iran criticized the decision.
The "passive step" taken by Britain, France and Germany showed their weakness relative to the United States, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Moussavi said, according to news agency Isna.
Iran would welcome constructive efforts to save and implement the nuclear deal, he said.
If there was no goodwill from the other side, he said that Tehran would not hesitate to give a forceful response.
The multi-stage process could ultimately allow countries to cease implementing the JCPOA and the global reimposition of sanctions, following a decision by the UN Security Council.
The European parties to the deal have worked hard to preserve it following the US departure, setting up a trading mechanism that - once operational - should enable legitimate business with Iran to continue despite the US sanctions.
The other remaining parties to the JCPOA are China and Russia.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was quick to stress his country's continued commitment to the nuclear agreement.
"Our goal is clear: We want to preserve the accord and come to a diplomatic solution within the parameters of the agreement," he wrote on Twitter.
"We call on Iran to participate constructively in the negotiation process that is now beginning," he added.
Similarly, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told parliament in London that their aim was to "reinforce the diplomatic track, not to abandon it."
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who will coordinate the dispute resolution mechanism, called on all parties to show "good faith" in addressing Tehran's non-compliance.
"The aim of the dispute resolution mechanism is not to reimpose sanctions. The aim of this mechanism is to resolve issues relating to the implementation of the agreement," Borrell told journalists in Strasbourg.
"The JCPOA is a significant achievement of sustained multilateral diplomacy following years of negotiations. In light of the ongoing dangerous escalations in the Middle East, the preservation of the JCPOA is now more important than ever," he added.
Last May, Iran announced that it would ignore key provisions of its 2015 deal with major powers, as a reaction to Washington's exit from the pact, which is meant to limit Tehran's nuclear programme to prevent it from being used for developing nuclear weapons.
Since then, Iran has breached limits on the amount and purity grade of uranium that it is allowed to enrich.
Amassing such material at very high purity grades would allow the Islamic Republic to turn it into warheads, although Tehran's leadership has denied having any military nuclear aims.
"We do not accept the argument that Iran is entitled to reduce compliance with the JCPOA," the European ministers said in their statement. "Iran has never triggered the JCPOA Dispute Resolution Mechanism and has no legal grounds to cease implementing the provisions of the agreement," they added.
Earlier on Tuesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson proposed replacing the JCPOA with a new Iranian nuclear deal, drafted by US President Donald Trump.
"My point to our American friends is – somehow or other we have got to stop the Iranians acquiring a nuclear weapon. That's what the JCPOA does. If we're going to get rid of it, then we need a replacement," Johnson told the BBC public broadcaster.
"President Trump is a great deal-maker - by his own account and many others. Let's work together to replace the JCPOA and get the Trump deal instead," he added.

Tuesday, January 14th 2020

New comment:

News | Politics | Features | Arts | Entertainment | Society | Sport

At a glance