Iran warns of ‘reciprocal measures’
Top US Department of State nuclear expert resigns
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini launched a thinly veiled verbal assault on US President Donald Trump as she set out her determination to save the Iran nuclear deal during an address in the Italian city of Florence.
Mogherini insisted that it's not up to the US to determine the future of a multilateral deal unilaterally.
"This deal is not a bilateral treaty. It's a UN Security Council Resolution and it belongs to the entire world," said Mogherini, who will chair talks Tuesday with the British, French, German and Iranian foreign ministers in Brussels.
She called for calm on all sides, saying the world is in a “state of chaos”, and that the EU needs to control tensions by preserving the Iran deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“I know this is not the mood of our times,” she added.
"It is exactly when the things don't go well that rationality, calm, predictability, respect, dialogue are the most needed to avoid the worst case scenarios, to avoid conflict to spiral out of control," she said.
"It seems that today screaming and shouting, insulting and bullying, systematically destroying and dismantling everything already in place is the mood of our times.
“I have the impression that this impulse to destroy is not leading us anywhere good.”
Trump described the deal as “horrible” and “one-sided” as he announced the US withdrawal on Tuesday, which could lead to penalties for European businesses that have begun trading with Iran since it was signed in 2015.
French exports to Iran doubled last year to €1.5 billion, while German exports rose by €400 million last year to €3 billion.
Defending the deal at the European University Institute’s state of the union conference, Mogherini said it had opened up trade while providing security in the region.
Asked whether it would be saved, Mogherini replied: “Yes.
“I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s going to be very difficult and it’s going to be very different from the past but our determination is to keep this agreement in place.”
She said she had been encouraged by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s commitment to abide by the deal if the other signatories did so.
Along with the UK, France, Germany and the EU, China and Russia are the party to the deal.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel too had stern words for Trump. Merkel said it was important to maintain a “strong transatlantic partnership” but added: “If everybody does what they like, then this is bad news for the world.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif flew to Beijing on Saturday and later travels to Russia, before going to Tuesday’s meeting in Brussels.
UK raises concerns
Britain said Britain Prime Minister Theresa May and Trump discussed the impact of America pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal during a phone call on Friday.
"The prime minister reiterated the government's position on the Iran nuclear deal, noting that we and our European partners remain firmly committed to ensuring the deal is upheld," a spokesman for May said.
May also “raised the potential impact of US sanctions on those firms which are currently conducting business in Iran”.
The two leaders agreed further talks would take place between the UK and US on the issue, the spokesman added.
The Iranian government warned that it will take "whatever reciprocal measures it deems expedient" if it is not fully compensated for the US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement as provided for in the accord.
A lengthy government statement issued Friday said the other parties to the must safeguard the JCPOA, implement their commitments, and "proceed from giving pledges to taking practical action without any preconditions."
Iran reiterated that no provisions or timeframes in the agreement "are negotiable in any manner." It also reiterated that the foreign minister is seeking "required guarantees" from the five other parties to the agreement as well as Iran's other economic parties.
At the same time, the government said it has tasked the president of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran with "taking all necessary steps in preparation for Iran to pursue industrial-scale enrichment without any restrictions, using the results of the latest research and development of Iran's brave nuclear scientists."
The statement was sharply critical of Trump, calling his administration "extremist" and the US withdrawal from the accord "unlawful." The government said the US pullout damages Washington’s credibility on the world stage and the credibility of accords the US has signed, and puts "the present system of international law in serious danger."
Top US expert quits
A top nuclear expert resigned this week from the US State Department after Trump announced the withdrawal from JCPOA.
Richard Johnson was the assistant coordinator for Iran nuclear issues at the Office of Nuclear Implementation.
A civil servant, Johnson had been involved in negotiations including the UK, France and Germany to save the deal.
Johnson did not give an exact reason for his resignation but in an email circulated to colleagues and staff and obtained by Foreign Policy, he said the 2015 agreement with Iran had proved to be successful.
He wrote: “I am proud to have played a small part in this work, particularly the extraordinary achievement of implementing the [deal] with Iran.”
Johnson’s departure leaves a growing vacuum of experts on Iran’s nuclear program in the US State Department, according to Foreign Policy.
One US official told the news website Johnson’s resignation was a “big loss” for the department and was symbolic of a growing sense the Trump administration was sidelining career experts on foreign policy issues.
AP, Reuters, and the Independent contributed to this story.