Zarif: Iran to further cut nuclear commitments if EU fails to act
Iran says will hold talks if Saudi Arabia is ready
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Wednesday that European nations still parties to the 2015 nuclear deal are "obliged" to help Iran sell and ship oil, amid a standoff with Britain over the seizure of tankers.
The deal over Iran's nuclear program has begun to unravel since US President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement last year and reimposed sanctions. Iran has been pushing the European parties to the deal – Britain, France and Germany – to adhere to their commitments under the agreement despite US pressure.
British authorities seized a tanker carrying Iranian oil off its territory Gibraltar on July 4, a move Spain's foreign minister said was carried out at the request of the United States.
"They (the European parties) have set out their commitments and announced them, they (include) the sale of Iran's oil, the transportation of Iran's oil, and the return of Iran's oil income," Zarif told reporters after a cabinet meeting in Tehran.
"It is clear that today's tensions and problems are due to America's economic terrorism and Europe's inability to fulfill its commitments which means going along with America's economic terrorism," he added.
Zarif's remarks come after a meeting in Vienna on Sunday of the remaining parties to the nuclear deal – the three European nations plus China and Russia.
In remarks broadcast on national television, the top Iranian diplomat described the talks as "challenging."
"We raised our stance and the importance of the fulfillment of the commitments of other parties to the JCPOA, in particular European countries," he said, referring to the deal by its formal name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Europeans 'must have courage'
"We clearly explained to them that these commitments that have been raised have not been implemented and that INSTEX... still isn't fully operational," said Zarif.
INSTEX is a mechanism set up by Britain, France and Germany to facilitate trade with Iran in the face of US sanctions.
"It should not be the case that INSTEX becomes a tool for implementing America's orders," the foreign minister said.
"INSTEX must be considered as a European measure.
"They (the Europeans) must have the courage to act according to their commitments and not according to America's demands," he said.
Iran to drop further commitments
One year after the US pullout, Iran said in May it would begin scaling back its commitments, and it has since started increasing its stockpile of enriched uranium and the level of enrichment beyond the deal's limits.
Zarif said Iran was ready to take a third step to reduce its commitments under the deal unless the remaining parties fulfill theirs, as they reiterated in Vienna.
"Now we'll have to see how they are going to act," he said.
"But in the current circumstances and as long as necessary measures are not taken, the Islamic Republic of Iran's third step will certainly be operational."
Talks with Saudi, UAE
The top diplomat signaled Iran’s readiness for dialogue if Saudi Arabia is also prepared.
Tensions have spiked between Iran and Saudi Arabia since Riyadh accused the Islamic Republic of carrying out attacks that damaged six oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, an allegation Tehran has denied.
"If Saudi Arabia is ready for dialogue, we are always ready for dialogue with our neighbors," Zarif said. "We have never closed the door to dialogue with our neighbors and we will never close the door to dialogue with our neighbors."
Zarif also said Iran could hold similar talks with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a close ally of the Saudis, adding, "If they change their policies, it is a very good opportunity for dialogue".
Iran had maritime security talks on Tuesday with the UAE in an apparent bid to calm tensions in the Persian Gulf, though an Arab official described the discussions as routine and technical.
Zarif dismissed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's offer to visit and address the Iranian people as a "hypocritical gesture."
"You don't need to come to Iran," Zarif said, in remarks directed at Pompeo. He suggested Pompeo instead grant visas for Iranian reporters to travel to the US and interview him, accusing him of having rejected their requests.
On Monday, Pompeo tweeted, "We aren't afraid of (Zarif) coming to America where he enjoys the right to speak freely."
Pompeo said he want to tell Iranians “the truth, unfiltered, unabridged."
AFP, Reuters and AP contributed to this story.