IAEA: Iran complying with nuclear deal
Putin warns of ‘lamentable’ results if Iran deal not saved
China, Germany defend nuclear accord
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said talks with European powers on an economic package aimed at salvaging the Iran nuclear deal will continue after a round of discussions that took place in Vienna on Friday.
“For the time being we are negotiating... to see if they can provide us with a package which can actually give Iran the benefits of sanctions-lifting and then the next step is to find guarantees for that package and we need both legal and political commitments by the remaining participants in the JCPOA (deal),” Araqchi told reporters.
He was speaking after the meeting with counterparts from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.
It was the first such meeting since the accord came into force in 2015 – at Iran's request – without the United States, which pulled out on May 8.
The agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), lifted international sanctions on Tehran. In return, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear program.
Since President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal last month, European states have been trying to find a way to ensure Iran still gets the economic benefits to persuade it to stay in the deal.
“I think it was a good meeting since all remaining parties to the deal declared a united stance on keeping their commitments to the JCPOA,” Araqchi said.
He added that the remaining signatories are trying to reach “practical solutions” to meet Iran’s demands and ensure that oil exports stay the same and that the SWIFT international payments messaging system continue to work for Iran.
The senior diplomat said negotiations will continue “in the next few weeks” and after that Iran will decide whether to stay in the nuclear deal or not.
Russian delegate Mikhail Ulyanov struck a more upbeat note after the meeting, saying: "We have all chances to succeed, provided that we have is the political will.
"I must tell you that the JCPOA is a major international asset. It does not belong to the United States, it belongs to the whole international community."
He added that the possibility of referring the matter back to the UN "was not discussed during this meeting".
Unusually for a meeting of the joint commission, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Yukiya Amano was invited to brief the participants on the IAEA's work in Iran.
Iran has threatened to restart its uranium enrichment program at an "industrial level" if the deal falls apart.
The five signatories still committed to the agreement have said they want Iran to stay in the deal, with the European countries saying they would not rule out further talks with the Islamic Republic on an expanded text.
However, in the run-up to Friday's meeting, several Iranian officials warned that there was no question of broadening the discussions.
Iran still honoring JCPOA
The UN's nuclear watchdog said in a report on Thursday that Iran continues to comply with the terms of the accord over its nuclear program despite the US withdrawal.
The latest assessment from the IAEA showed that Iran is abiding by the deal's key restrictions on its nuclear facilities in return for relief from economic sanctions.
The IAEA urged Iran to stick with the accord and even go beyond its legal obligations so as to boost international confidence in Tehran's commitments.
A senior diplomat in Vienna, where the IAEA is based, said this was not prompted by any lack of cooperation or change of behavior on Iran's part.
As in previous reports, the IAEA confirmed that the number of centrifuges to enrich uranium at Iran's Natanz plant had been kept below the agreed level of 5,060, while its total stockpile of low-enriched uranium "has not exceeded 300 kilograms".
IAEA reports have consistently shown Iran adhering to the terms of the deal in the two years since it came into force.
The latest report said that Iran has assured the IAEA that more information will be provided in due course and that "for the first five years, no facility will be involved".
President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia appreciated efforts by Europe to save the Iran nuclear deal despite the withdrawal of the United States and warned of “lamentable consequences” if it was not preserved.
Putin made the comment in a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, offering some support for the French leader’s plan for negotiating a broader agreement with Tehran to cover Iran’s ballistics program and its activities in the Middle East.
"Our position - the position of Russia - is well known. We believe the deal must be preserved," Putin told reporters.
"We welcome the intention of not only France, but of the whole united Europe, to keep this deal. We understand that it won’t be easy to do so," the Russian head of state added.
“Certainly we can discuss Iran’s ballistic missiles. We can discuss Iran’s policies in the Middle East and its nuclear activities after 2025,” Putin said.
“But we cannot make preserving the Iranian nuclear deal dependent on these three parameters because if we do, it means that we too are withdrawing from the accord because the deal that exists foresees no additional conditions.”
Putin said he opposed all kinds of unilateral sanctions and viewed them as illegitimate and detrimental to the global economy.
EU’s economic profit
Agreeing with Putin on the need to preserve the JCPOA, Macron stressed that France and other European countries should be given an opportunity to "keep their economic profit, despite the US sanctions, and maintain their economic presence in Iran."
"Europe should have a stronger economic sovereignty," Macron said. "France envisages a compensation for French companies acting within the framework of treaties signed by France. Other mechanisms to protect the interests of companies are being discussed."
Merkel, Chinese PM Li defend JCPOA
In Beijing, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang showed a united front on Iran and defended the JCPOA on Thursday, with Li hinting that terminating the pact would complicate negotiations on other international issues.
Li warned that abandoning the agreement with Tehran "will not just impact Iran, but also have a negative impact on (the ability) to solve other hot international issues through peaceful negotiations".
Merkel said Berlin feels bound by the Iran deal despite Trump's announcement that Washington was withdrawing.
"It is not perfect either, but one always has to ask what the alternatives are, and the alternatives are even more precarious," she said. "In any case, we have a common position not to call into question this agreement."
The German leader also sounded the alarm about the economic impact on Europe of Trump's move to quit the Iran agreement.
If European companies pull out or shrink operations in Iran fearing US sanctions, it would "create an opportunity for businesses in other countries to step in and play a greater role", Merkel said.
As two signatories of the deal, China and Germany have openly expressed their disappointment with Trump's decision and plan to safeguard the agreement regardless.
AFP, AP, Reuters and Press TV contributed to this story.