EU calls for ‘diplomatic’ dialogue to resolve impasse
Tehran on Tuesday dismissed a decision by three European states to trigger a dispute mechanism in Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, as a "passive" action taken out of “weakness”, adding, however, that the Islamic Republic is ready to consider any constructive effort to save the international accord.
France, Britain and Germany formally triggered the dispute mechanism earlier in the day, the strongest step they have taken so far to enforce an agreement that requires Iran to curb its nuclear program.
The trio stressed that they want to resolve differences through talks while starting the clock on a process that could result in a so-called “snapback” of United Nations sanctions against Tehran.
“The action of the three European countries is passive and taken from a position of weakness,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Seyyed Abbas Mousavi said.
Mousavi also warned of a “serious and strong response” to the European move.
However, he said Iran remains “fully ready to support any goodwill and constructive effort to save this important international agreement”.
The Europeans stressed that they want to “resolve the impasse through constructive diplomatic dialogue” and made no threat of sanctions in their statement.
The three countries, which signed the international agreement in 2015 along with the United States, Russia and China, said in a letter to the European Union’s foreign policy chief that they had no choice but to trigger the deal’s “dispute mechanism”.
The foreign ministers of the three European nations accused Iran of repeatedly violating the accord while insisting they remained committed to the agreement.
They said Iran had been progressively scaling back its commitments under the deal and crossing key restrictions on its nuclear program since May last year.
"We have therefore been left with no choice, given Iran's actions" to begin the dispute process, their statement said, adding Tehran was not "meeting its commitments".
The nuclear deal – known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – has a provision that allows a party to claim significant non-compliance by another party before a joint commission.
If the issue is not resolved at the joint commission, it then goes to an advisory board and eventually to the UN Security Council which could reimpose sanctions.
Russian objection to E3
A source in the Russian Foreign Ministry said that Moscow considers "unacceptable" that the UK, France and Germany have activated the Iran nuclear deal dispute mechanism.
"We reaffirm the stand that it is unacceptable to activate the mechanism under paragraph 36 of the JCPOA. We believe that the EU trio's actions are inadmissible, as they contravene the goals and the sense of the JCPOA," the source said.
Iran resumed activities to enrich uranium in response to the United States’ pulling out of the deal in May 2018.
Its latest step in January to forego the limit on the number of centrifuges used in uranium enrichment prompted the Europeans to trigger the mechanism.
"Iran's actions are inconsistent with the provisions of the nuclear agreement and have increasingly severe and non-reversible proliferation implications," the E3 statement said.
E3 stanc on JCPOA
The three European powers said, however, that they "once again express our commitment" to the deal and indicated their "determination to work with all participants to preserve it".
"Our hope is to bring Iran back into full compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA."
The trio also noted that they would not join "a campaign to implement maximum pressure against Iran" launched by US President Donald Trump.
Trump's move meant Iran has not benefitted from the sanctions relief it had hoped for, creating more trouble for its economy.
Yet even as the EU powers made clear their commitment to the deal, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tuesday he would be willing to work on a "Trump deal" to replace the JCPOA.
"If we are going to get rid of it, let's replace it and let's replace it with the Trump deal," he said.
"That's what we need to see. I think that would be a great way forward," he added, noting that "from the American perspective it's a flawed agreement."
'Resume diplomatic effort'
But EU's diplomatic chief Josep Borrell said it was "more important than ever" to save the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal "in light of the ongoing dangerous escalations in the Middle East."
Tensions between Iran and the United States last week climbed to their highest levels since the 1979 Islamic Revolution which ousted the pro-American shah.
The United States assassinated top commander Qassem Soleimani in a strike in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on January 3. Iran in response fired a barrage of ballistic missiles on Iraqi bases housing US troops.
AFP, AP, Reuters and Sputnik contributed to this story.