European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has urged “all parties” to continue complying with a nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, saying that “the deal is working.”
Mogherini made the plea on January 11, a day before a deadline for U.S. President Donald Trump to announce a key decision on whether Washington would continue to waive sanctions against Iran in accordance with the nuclear deal.
Speaking after talks in Brussels with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif –as well as the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and Britain — Mogherini said the nuclear deal “is delivering on its main goal” of preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
“The European Union remains committed to supporting the full and effective implementation of the agreement, including making sure that the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions has a positive impact on trade and economic relations with Iran, including benefits for the Iranian people,” Mogherini said.
French Foreign Minister Yves Le Drian said after the Brussels meeting that it was “essential that all parties should continue to abide by the deal.” He called on the United States to respect the accord too, saying “there is no particular reason for any rupture.”
“There is no indication today that could call into doubt Iranian respect of the agreement,” Le Drian said.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said nobody has “so far produced a better alternative…as a way of preventing the Iranians from going ahead with the acquisition of their military nuclear capability.”
The Associated Press quotes U.S. officials and others familiar with the Trump administration’s current position on the nuclear accord as saying that Trump is likely, for now, to continue waiving sanctions in accordance with the deal.
But they say Trump may pair his decision with new, targeted sanctions on Iranian businesses and individuals over other issues, such as Iran’s ongoing program to develop long-range ballistic missiles.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on January 11 that he expects Trump to impose new sanctions on Iran.
“We continue to look at them. We’ve rolled them out, and I think you can expect there will be more sanctions coming,” he told reporters, without being specific.
That could test Tehran’s willingness to continue adhering to its obligations under the nuclear deal.
Steve Goldstein, undersecretary of state, told a briefing on January 11 that Trump will likely make a decision on whether to extend sanctions relief later on January 11 after meeting with key advisers but that it is possible the decision will not be announced until January 12.
Le Drian said Europe was not seeking to hide other contentious issues with Iran, including its ballistic missile program.
In a phone call on January 11, France’s President Emmanuel Macron stressed to Trump the importance of adhering to the nuclear deal, the French presidency said.
Macron “recalled France’s determination in favor of a strict application of the agreement and the importance of its respect by all of its signatories,” a statement said.
The White House said Trump underscored to Macron that Iran must cease its “destabilizing activity” in the region.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Washington was right to address other issues that have raised concerns about Iran’s regional ambitions in the Middle East.
But he said the Trump administration should consider the nuclear agreement as an issue that is separate from Iran’s missile program and its role in Syria’s civil war, where Tehran supports President Bashar al-Assad’s military forces.
Gabriel said the EU is opening a new line of communication with Iran to talk about non-nuclear issues because Iran has a “difficult” role in the Middle East that must be discussed separately from the 2015 nuclear deal.
‘Sending A Message’
European powers at the Brussels meeting reassured Iran’s foreign minister on January 11 that they remain committed to the nuclear deal.
One European diplomat said ahead of the talks that the European signatories of the nuclear accord want to “send a message to Washington that Iran is complying and that it is better to have the nuclear agreement than to isolate Tehran.”
Many of Trump’s top aides have reportedly been urging him to extend U.S. sanctions relief, but Trump remained reluctant on January 10.
Reports said U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and national security adviser H.R. McMaster were pressing Trump to sign the waiver granting sanctions relief to Tehran.
Trump and key advisers were expected to meet later on January 11 to finalize the U.S. decision, which will be revealed on January 12.
Trump is a fierce critic of the accord and refused to certify Iran’s compliance at the last deadline in October. But Trump has, so far, stopped short of reimposing sanctions or withdrawing the United States from the accord.
Iran on January 10 warned it will pull out of the nuclear deal if the United States withdraws.