Iran: EU should uphold obligations under JCPOA
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for using diplomacy to resolve the dispute over the 2015 nuclear deal after Iran said it would stop implementing two nuclear commitments in response to the US withdrawal from the accord and the reimposition of sanctions.
Macron said the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) must be saved and its signatories should do all they can to persuade Iran to stick with what he called the “good agreement”.
"Iran must remain in this agreement and we must do everything we can to ensure that it stays in," He told reporters on Thursday as he arrived for a European Union summit in Romania.
"We must not get jumpy or fall into escalation," Macron said, warning that leaving the deal would "unstitch what we have achieved".
"That's why France is staying in, and will stay in and I profoundly hope Iran will stay in," Macron said.
He urged the signatories not to "get caught up in any escalation" and to "jointly watch over our collective security."
Merkel said the EU wants to avoid an escalation, adding that Iran must recognize that it is in its own interests to remain committed to the nuclear deal.
"We're not in favor of an escalation of the situation but rather on using further diplomatic means," Merkel said after the EU meeting.
"Our hand remains outstretched at this point; we want to continue to push for a diplomatic solution."
Merkel highlighted the "differences of opinion with the United States" in her assessment of the Iran nuclear standoff and said a united Europe is essential in facing the issue.
"We also know our limits, but the more unified Europe appears – that was the common position here – the greater our chances are to perhaps increase the likelihood and chances of realizing solutions through talks," She said.
EU wants Iran's compliance
In a statement, EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini and the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Britain – the three European nations in the deal – rejected an ultimatum from President Hassan Rouhani, who threatened to resume nuclear work if they fail to deliver sanctions relief within 60 days to counterbalance US President Donald Trump's assault on the Iranian economy.
"We reject any ultimatums and we will assess Iran's compliance on the basis of Iran's performance regarding its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA and the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons). In this respect, we recall the key role of IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) monitoring and verification of the implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments,” they said.
"We strongly urge Iran to continue to implement its commitments under the JCPOA in full as it has done until now and to refrain from any escalatory steps."
In the statement, the Europeans further expressed regret about the reimposition of sanctions against Iran and said they would stay fully committed to “the preservation and full implementation” of the JCPOA, which they described as “a key achievement of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture, which is in the security interest of all.”
Iran announced on Wednesday that it would stop exporting excess uranium and heavy water, setting a 60-day deadline for the five remaining parties to the deal — France, Germany, the UK, China and Russia — to take practical measures toward ensuring Iran’s interests in the face of US sanctions that were reimposed on Iran after America’s exit.
Since the US pullout, Europe has sought to keep Iran in the deal by trying to maintain trade via a special mechanism called INSTEX to clear payments without falling foul of American sanctions.
The European statement reiterated its commitment to "enable the continuation of legitimate trade with Iran".
But few major European companies want to risk the wrath of US sanctions for the sake of the Iranian market and the Iran’s Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has dismissed the European efforts as a "bitter joke".
Europeans ‘only express regret’
The joint statement drew a sharp response from the Iranian foreign minister who accused the EU of caving in to US bullying.
"EU statement today is why JCPOA is where it is: the US has bullied Europe – and rest of world – for a year and EU can only express 'regret'," Mohammad Javad Zarif hit back on Twitter.
"Instead of demanding that Iran unilaterally abide by a multilateral accord, EU should uphold obligations," he said, calling for the "normalization of economic ties."
Iran also said the measures it has adopted in response to the US withdrawal do not violate the deal and are meant to restore the balance between its rights and commitments under Articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA.
On Thursday, Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), emphasized that Article 26 of the JCPOA reserves Iran’s right to stop some of its commitments “totally and partially” if the opposite side fails to uphold its end of the bargain.
“Iran has taken the measure in response to America’s withdrawal from the JCPOA and the re-imposition of sanctions,” he said.
Kamalvandi also noted that Iran’s move is well-calculated, adding, “Certainly, our goal is to bring the JCPOA back on track and strengthen it.”
AP, AFP, Reuters and Press TV contributed to this story.