The European Union will extend indefinitely the time limit to resolve disputes in the 2015 Iran nuclear accord in order to avoid having to go to the UN Security Council or triggering new sanctions, the EU's top diplomat said in Tehran.
"We are in agreement not to go directly to a strict time limit which would oblige (us) to go to the Security Council," Josep Borrell, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, told reporters during a visit to the Iranian capital.
In his remarks, broadcast on Tuesday, he said, "The willingness is not to start a process that goes to the end of JCPOA, but to keep it alive," referring to the Iran deal by its formal name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Britain, France and Germany formally accused Iran on Jan. 14 of violating the terms of the 2015 arms control agreement aimed at curbing Tehran's nuclear program. In January, the trio triggered a complaint mechanism to bring back to full implementation of the deal.
The mechanism could lead to the restoration of all sanctions that were lifted by the UNSC, but, for now, the Europeans say they are keen on getting Iran back on board rather than reimpose sanctions.
Borrell, who is chair of the Iran deal, was notified in January by Paris, London and Berlin that they had triggered the dispute mechanism, in theory starting a 15-day process to resolve issues with Iran.
China and Russia are also signatories to the deal signed in Vienna in 2015 and have expressed misgivings about the Europeans' decision to trigger the mechanism.
All sides say they want to save the deal, which US President Donald Trump withdrew from in May 2018, reimposing economic sanctions on Iran.
Borrell said he had agreed with Berlin, London and Paris to "continuously postpone" the 15-day limit. However, he said progress depended on maintaining the presence of the UN atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in Iran to monitor its nuclear activities.
Meeting Borrell on Monday, President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran is ready to cooperate with the EU on issues related to the nuclear deal.
"Whenever the other side lives up to its commitments completely, Iran is ready to return to its commitments,” Rouhani said.
Since May 2019, Iran has progressively scaled back commitments in compliance with articles 26 and 36 of the agreement in response to the US sanctions and Europe's inability to circumvent them.
Iran says it is now producing uranium enriched beyond the 3.67 percent set by the agreement, and no longer adheres to the limit of 300 kilograms imposed on its enriched uranium stocks.
It has also resumed research and development that was restricted under the deal.
Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani also met Borrell on Monday. Larijani criticized EU’s “weak” stance on the US withdrawal from the deal.
Reuters and AFP contributed to this story.