Zarif: EU measures for JCPOA seem ‘practical’
Rouhani urges deal signatories to meet Iran’s demands
Iran and world powers held talks on Friday to provide Tehran with an economic package to compensate for US sanctions that begin taking effect in August.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met his counterparts from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia in Vienna for the first time since US President Donald Trump left the nuclear accord in May. Trump pulled the United States out of the multinational deal under which sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for curbs on its nuclear program verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Speaking after three hours of talks, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who chaired the talks, said all sides agreed to continue negotiations, including on economic measures, and would look at ways salvage the deal despite the reimposition of US sanctions.
Mogherini read a statement from the six delegations repeating previously-announced broad priorities ranging from guaranteeing Iranian oil revenue to shipping ties, banking and all other trade and investment cooperation.
"Participants agreed to keep progress under close review and to reconvene the joint commission, including at ministerial level, as appropriate in order to advance common efforts," She said, adding that all sides were determined to find and implement solutions.
Unlike at past meetings, Mogherini took no questions.
A ‘step forward’
Zarif described the talks “serious and constructive” and a “step forward”, saying ways proposed to save the deal appeared to be “practical”.
“What matters now is that what has been mentioned as commitments and actions, which have not been necessarily made public in full, must be put into practice so that we could see its benefits,” Zarif told reporters.
"All the commitments made today, should be implemented before the August deadline ... it is up to the leadership in Tehran to decide whether Iran should remain in the deal ... the proposal was not precise and a complete one," he said.
Speaking earlier in the day, France's foreign minister said that world powers would struggle to keep to that deadline. "They (Iran) must stop threatening to break their commitments to the nuclear deal," Jean-Yves Le Drian said.
"We are trying to do it (economic package) before sanctions are imposed at the start of August and then the next set of sanctions in November. For August it seems a bit short, but we are trying to do it by November," he said.
Arriving in Vienna, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said preserving the deal was critical, and that the treaty states would send a "united, determined and strong signal" that they were committed to it despite Trump's decision to pull out American support.
"If this treaty can't be upheld then this doesn't just hurt the interests of Iran, it also damages the peace in the Middle East and the credibility of the international world order," Wang said.
On arrival in Vienna, Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he didn't expect a collapse of talks, but suggested more negotiations would be needed in the future. He stressed that world powers would struggle to compensate Tehran for companies leaving Iran.
"We are formulating an offer which, in our opinion, is also attractive for Iran," Maas said. "We want this agreement to be maintained in the future."
The pillars of the European Union's strategy are: European Investment Bank lending, a special measure to shield EU companies from US secondary sanctions, and a commission proposal that EU governments make direct money transfers to Iran's central bank to avoid US penalties.
"We've made some progress, including on safeguarding some crude (oil) sales, but it's unlikely to meet Iranian expectations. It's also not just about what the Europeans can do, but also how the Chinese, Russians, Indians, others can contribute," said a senior European diplomat.
Iranian officials have said that key for them is to ensure measures that guarantee oil exports do not halt, and that Tehran still has access to the SWIFT international bank payments messaging system or an alternative.
"We are ready for all possible scenarios ... the collapse of the deal will increase the tension in the region. To save the deal, other signatories should compensate for US sanctions," a senior Iranian official told Reuters on Friday.
During a visit to Europe this week Rouhani warned that Iran could reduce its cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog, having already threatened Trump of the "consequences" of fresh sanctions against Iranian oil sales.
On the nuclear side of the agreement the parties did agree to replace the United States in a working group to redesign the Arak reactor with China.
The deal specifies that the new design will aim to minimize the production of plutonium and to prevent the production of high-grade plutonium in normal operation. It also specifies the fuel Arak must use and says its spent fuel for the reactor's lifetime must be shipped out of Iran.
EU package 'disappointing'
On Thursday night, Rouhani talked on the phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron about Europe's package of economic measures to offset the US pullout from the nuclear deal.
Rouhani told Merkel that the package proposed by Germany, France and the UK is "disappointing" and noted that there was no action plan or "a clear method in the proposed package for the continuation of cooperation and, similar to the previous EU statements, it only contained general commitments."
"Unfortunately the proposed package lacked an action plan or a clear roadmap for continuation of cooperation. It only included some general promises like previous EU statements," Rouhani said.
He noted that the US withdrawal from the JCPOA has caused some problems in economic areas, banking transactions and oil sector for the foreign companies which have made investment in Iran, making them reluctant about continuing their operations in the country.
The president said Iran will continue cooperation with Europe regarding the JCPAO if the remaining parties to the landmark accord can meet Tehran's expectations.
Merkel explained that the European countries' package pointed to the general principles at this stage, noting that negotiations should continue over the details.
Rouhani also told Macron that Europe's package does not go far enough. "The package proposed by Europe ... does not meet all our demands," Rouhani was quoted as saying.
He pointed to the recent financial and banking problems caused for some European companies operating in Iranian projects said Tehran expects Europe to offer a transparent action plan with a timeline which can compensate the risks caused by the US exit.
Macron underlined France's commitment to the JCPOA and stressed the need for continuation of cooperation and dialogue to keep the nuclear deal in place.
Reuters, AP, AFP, Press TV and Tasnim contributed to this story.