News ID: 210912
Published: 0231 GMT March 02, 2018

Report: Europeans engage with Iran on regional issues

Report: Europeans engage with Iran on regional issues

European powers and Iran have started talks over Tehran’s role in the Middle East and will meet again this month in Italy as part of efforts to prove to US President Donald Trump that they are meeting his concerns over the 2015 nuclear deal.

With Trump warning of a last chance for “the worst deal ever negotiated”, Britain, France and Germany have been working with US officials to draw up a strategy to improve the Iran nuclear deal in return for Trump keeping the pact alive by renewing US sanctions relief on May 12, a report by Reuters said.

Parallel to those efforts, the three European powers, joined by Italy and the European Union, have initiated discussions with Iran to address regional issues.

Western states express their concerns over Iran’s activities in the region, which they claim they are destabilizing.

Tehran denies this and accuses the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia of fomenting tensions in the Middle East.

Senior officials held a first meeting on the sidelines of last month’s Munich security conference, focusing on Iran’s role in the Yemen conflict. They are due to meet again in Italy this month, two European diplomats and an Iranian official said. A third European confirmed the Munich meeting.

“The Iranians are pretty co-operative, but having a positive meeting doesn’t mean we’ll see any sort of impact in the real world,” said a senior European diplomat.

“Most of the gaps can be narrowed with the West ... but it needs goodwill and loads of work,” said a senior Iranian official.

“The West should gain our trust again ... the nuclear deal was not fully implemented, how can we trust them on other issues?”

The European powers, who meet American officials in Berlin on March 15, have stressed to the United States that while they will work on an Iran strategy, including tackling its ballistic missile program, in return Trump must not kill the accord.

“We want to keep the nuclear deal, but we’re telling the Iranians that we have other problems with them. We need to see progress on these issues. Otherwise, because of Trump it will lead to the collapse of the accord,” said a senior French diplomat.

The United States and Saudi Arabia have repeatedly accused Iran of supplying weapons to the Houthis in Yemen, a claim Tehran has consistently denied, however, admitting political support for the movement.

The Houthi movement has been defending Yemen against a bloody Saudi-led military campaign, which was launched in 2015 with the help of the US and the UK to reinstall the country’s former Riyadh-friendly government.

Since 2015, the Saudi-led coalition of mostly Persian Gulf countries, supported by the United States and the United Kingdom, has been carrying out airstrikes against the Houthis at the former Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi's request.

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