UK PM: Escalations in region in ‘no one’s interests’
After almost four hours of negotiations with remaining parties to the nuclear deal, Iran's deputy foreign minister said progress was made in the talks but the demands of the Islamic Republic are yet to be met.
"It was a step forward, but it is still not enough and not meeting Iran’s expectations," Abbas Araqchi told reporters on Friday after talks with senior diplomats from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia in the Austrian capital as a last-ditch effort to save the deal.
US President Donald Trump withdrew Washington in May 2018 from the multilateral nuclear accord and reimposed sanctions on Iran, which had been lifted under the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Tehran says it no longer feels bound by certain limits in the deal due to the sanctions reimposed by Washington.
European signatories to the nuclear deal are facing a two-month ultimatum to help Iran navigate US sanctions or see Tehran take the second step of reducing its commitments on July 7.
In early May, Tehran suspended limits on its production of enriched uranium and heavy water, moves that did not technically violate the deal but signaled that its patience was wearing thin.
Referring to Iran's decision to go over the deal's core atomic restrictions, Araqchi said, "The decision to reduce our commitments has already been made in Iran and we continue on that process unless our expectations are met.
"I don’t think the progress made today will be enough to stop our process but the decision will be made in Tehran."
Helga Schmid, the deputy to the EU's foreign policy chief, also took part in Friday's meeting and said in a tweet there had been "constructive discussions."
She said INSTEX, a mechanism set up to facilitate trade with Iran and avoid US sanctions, was "now operational, first transactions being processed and more EU member states to join".
The European Union also issued a statement, saying the special trade channel was up and running.
"France, Germany and the United Kingdom informed participants that INSTEX had been made operational and available to all EU member states and that the first transactions are being processed," said the statement.
Iran has also established an entity to trade with Europe, while some more EU countries are joining INSTEX as shareholders, the statement said.
Araqchi welcomed progress on INSTEX, but underlined the importance to Iran of reviving its oil exports, saying that "for INSTEX to be useful for Iran, Europeans need to buy oil from Iran or to consider credit lines for this mechanism otherwise INSTEX is not like they or us expect."
The trade mechanism was established last year after the US withdrawal from the JCPOA.
France, Germany and Britain had been tinkering with INSTEX for months without making it operational, leaving Iran wondering whether they are serious about the idea.
In a joint statement earlier on Friday, Austria, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden said they were working with the EU3 to develop trade mechanisms.
China oil imports
China’s representative to the talks in Vienna Fu Cong told reporters that China won't accept US unilateral sanctions on Iran oil.
"We do not accept this so-called zero policy of the United States," said Cong.
"For us energy security is important and the importation of oil is important to Chinese energy security and also to the livelihood of the people," said Cong.
The Trump administration said on April 22 that, in a bid to reduce Iran's oil exports to zero, buyers of Iranian oil must stop purchases by May 1 or face sanctions. The move ended six months of waivers, which allowed Iran’s eight biggest buyers – Turkey, China, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan – to continue importing limited volumes.
The United States' insistence on zeroing out Iran's oil exports has caused many problems in the global market, keeping confused both experts and buyers as they look straight into what is shaping up to be a chaotic chapter for the petroleum industry.
China and several other major purchasers of Iranian oil have already complained to the US about the decision.
US military buildup in the Persian Gulf on the pretext of defending its interests in the region has also escalated tensions between Tehran and Washington in recent months.
British Prime Minister Theresa May on Saturday warned escalations in the region were in “no one’s interests.”
May made the comments at her last G20 meeting in Japan.
She said London will continue to work with the JCPOA partners to do all it can to keep the Iran nuclear deal in place.
Washington has sent an aircraft carrier strike group, a bomber task force, an amphibious assault ship, and some 1,500 more forces to the region.
The US Air Forces Central Command also said on Friday that the US has deployed F-22 stealth fighters to Qatar for the first time, adding to a buildup of US forces in the Persian Gulf.
Tensions spiked last week when Iran shot down an advanced US-made RQ-4 Global Hawk over the territorial waters off the coastal province of Hormuzgan.
The unmanned US aircraft had been taken down by Iran’s indigenous Khordad 3 air defense system after it breached the country’s airspace on a spying mission despite the IRGC’s numerous warnings.
Press TV, AFP and Reuters contributed to this story.