Iran optimistic, Europeans realistic at talks to save nuclear deal

Brussels -By Helen Maguire, - Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was optimistic Tuesday about talks with his European counterparts aimed at salvaging the Iran nuclear deal, following the US decision to withdraw.

But British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson warned that US President Donald Trump's decision to reimpose Iran-related sanctions would act as an "electrified rail" to those wanting to do business with the country.
"It won't be easy. That is clear to us all," added his German counterpart Heiko Maas.
Zarif was due to meet with the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain, who have all pledged to uphold the 2015 deal to prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb and are seeking ways to preserve the economic benefits it promises in return for Tehran's compliance.
"We are on the right path," Zarif said following an initial meeting with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, which he described as "good and constructive," according to the Iranian news agency ISNA.
"The EU is determined to preserve this deal," Mogherini said, adding that the talks with Zarif had been "productive."
The bloc is looking at specific measures it can take to protect European investments in Iran, after Tehran set a 60-day ultimatum for Brussels to guarantee the continued implementation of the deal.
Mogherini met later Tuesday with Maas, Johnson and their French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, with Zarif due to join the talks later in the evening.
"We want to hear what expectations there are in Iran," Maas said. "We will look for ways in which we can make sure that in Iran the deal can still be supported from a domestic political perspective."
To keep the nuclear deal alive, the EU must make sure that it remains in Tehran's interest to comply by ensuring that trade can continue with Iran, despite the renewed threat of US sanctions.
Options could include drafting an EU licence allowing European firms to do business with Iran while protecting them from US sanctions, as well as support from the European Investment Bank and measures backing smaller firms that are not active in the US.
"We are going to see whether the political will that has been expressed by the remaining participants [in the nuclear deal] can be translated into specific action," Zarif said ahead of the meeting with his European counterparts.
The issue will also be addressed at a summit of EU leaders in the Bulgarian capital Sofia on Wednesday, although no decisions are likely to be taken.
"We are not in a panic here and we are not working under extreme time pressure," a senior EU official said on condition of anonymity.
EU Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete is due to visit Tehran at the weekend to discuss energy cooperation between Iran and the bloc, the European Commission announced.
The visit is important in "confirming what we are doing" to preserve the nuclear deal, said EU foreign policy spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic.
In recent days, Zarif also visited Russia and China, which both negotiated the deal alongside the US, Germany, France and Britain.

Tuesday, May 15th 2018
By Helen Maguire,

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