Iran gives Europe two more months to save JCPOA
President Hassan Rouhani said Iran will announce a new “significant” step in scaling back its nuclear commitments by Thursday as a diplomatic push for relief from US sanctions seemed to have failed.
Iran and three European countries – Britain, France and Germany – have been engaged in talks to save a 2015 nuclear deal that has been unraveling since the US withdrew from it May last year.
The efforts have been led by French President Emmanuel Macron, who has been trying to convince the US to offer Iran some sort of relief from sanctions it has reimposed on the Islamic Republic since its pullout.
“It is unlikely that we will reach a final agreement with Europe today or tomorrow; therefore, we will take the third step. We will release the details of the third step today or tomorrow and act accordingly," Rouhani said.
Rouhani gave little away about what Iran's next step might be, only saying it "may not seem very shocking but... it is extremely important."
"This step is the most significant step we have taken and its effects will be great and, God willing, with this step the Atomic Energy Organization (of Iran) will accelerate processes," he said.
The Iranian president said the two sides were getting closer to an agreement on a way to resolve burning issues.
"If we had 20 issues of disagreement with the Europeans in the past, today there are three issues," he said.
"Most of them have been resolved but we haven't reached a final agreement."
Rouhani said talks with European powers were moving forward, raising hopes of at least a pause in a diplomatic confrontation between Iran and the West that has stoked already heightened tensions across the region.
“We will hold talks [with Europe] while taking this third step and if we reach a deal, there will still be a way to negotiations, logic and agreement,” Rouhani said.
“Europe will have another two months to fulfill its commitments,” he added.
"They know what we want, and we know what they want," Rouhani said.
Speaking to reporters in Bangladesh earlier on Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif described as “regrettable” Europe’s call for the US approval of the European measures to save the nuclear agreement.
Iran has long been threatening to carry out a third step by Friday unless other parties to the deal offset the effect of US sanctions in return for its continued compliance.
It has already hit back twice with countermeasures in response to the US withdrawal from the deal, which gave it relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
On July 1, Iran said it had increased its stockpile of enriched uranium to beyond the 300-kilogram maximum set by the deal.
A week later, it announced it had exceeded a 3.67-percent cap on the purity of its uranium stocks.
The UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said on August 30 that Iran's uranium stockpile stood at about 360 kilograms and that just over 10 percent of it was enriched to 4.5 percent.
Iran’s vital crude oil sales have plummeted by more than 80% under US sanctions.
A deputy foreign minister said Iran would resume full compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) if it is allowed to sell its oil or get a $15-billion credit line guaranteed by future crude sales.
Seyyed Abbas Araqchi expressed doubt, however, that such a plan could be agreed by the deadline set by Iran for sanctions relief.
"Iran... will return to full implementation of the JCPOA only if it is able to sell its oil and to fully benefit from the income from these sales," Araqchi said.
Araqchi appeared to back the main terms of the French proposal.
"The French proposal goes in that direction," the deputy foreign minister said.
“Either Europe has to buy oil from Iran or provide Iran with the equivalent of selling oil as a credit line guaranteed by Iran’s oil revenues, which in some sense means a presale of oil,” Araqchi added.
Araqchi, speaking days after leading an economic delegation to France, ruled out any renegotiation of the JCPOA, but said Iran was open to talks on how to implement it better.
"Returning to full implementation of the JCPOA is subject to receiving $15 billion over a period of four months, otherwise the process of Iran reducing its commitments will continue," he said.
The 2015 nuclear deal was agreed between Iran and the so-called 5+1 – UN Security Council permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany.
Government spokesman Ali Rabiei said Iran would stick to its nuclear commitments “if France can get the approval of the US and announces it.” He added: “If they cannot get the approval, then we will take the third step.”
The United States has not commented on the proposal which would contradict its stated policy of imposing “maximum pressure” to force Tehran to rein in its nuclear and missile programs as well as what the White House views as its destabilizing regional behavior.
AFP, Reuters, AP and Press TV contributed to this story.