Iran continues to comply with the nuclear deal reached in 2015 with major powers even after the withdrawal of the United States, the United Nations' atomic watchdog said Thursday in a confidential report.
In the quarterly report distributed to member states and seen by The Associated Press, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran has stayed with key limitations set in the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.
The conclusion came as the European Union’s top defense and diplomatic officials convened in Vienna on Thursday with the teetering Iran nuclear agreement and Middle East stability at the top of their agenda.
Top diplomats from France and Germany have become increasingly vocal in calling for the EU to adopt policies to sidestep US sanctions threats
The US decision to roll back the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers is raising pressure on EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who helped seal negotiations over the agreement and still coordinates its dispute-resolution mechanism. Top diplomats from France and Germany have become increasingly vocal in calling for the EU to adopt policies to sidestep US sanctions threats.
“Europe is doing the right things but it’s doing it very slowly,” said Richard Dalton, the UK’s former Ambassador to Iran who’s now the President of the British Iranian Chamber of Commerce. European banks are “over implementing” sanctions to protect US market access, according to Dalton, who urged EU officials to focus on protecting allowable agricultural and medical exports to Iran.
In this file photo taken on April 3, 2007, an Iranian flag is seen outside the building housing the reactor of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, in the Iranian port town of Bushehr, 1,200 km south of Tehran. (BEHROUZ MEHRI / AFP)
Even modest EU attempts to maintain relations with Iran have drawn US rebuke. An 18 million-euro (US$21 million) EU package to promote trade with Iranian small businesses “sends the wrong message” by supporting the Islamic Republic’s government, the State Department said.
“They continue to be the single biggest destabilizing element in the Middle East,” US Defense Secretary James Mattis said at a briefing on Tuesday in Washington.
While US officials have conceded Iran continues to meet its nuclear obligations under the July 2015 deal signed in the Austrian capital -- which capped the capacity and production of material that could be used in weapons in return for sanctions relief -- they accuse Tehran’s government of meddling in Middle Eastern conflicts from Syria to Yemen.
“There is no problem with continuing relations and negotiations with Europe, but hope should be abandoned regarding matters such as the nuclear deal,” Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a meeting with President Hassan Rouhani and members of his cabinet, according to the leader’s website.
The EU meeting in Vienna comes at a complicated time for the 28-member bloc, with member states busy preparing for the UK’s exit from the EU, autocratic leaders in eastern Europe pushing the bounds of the rule of law and a clash heating up with Italy over migration and spending. The foreign ministers will have a busy two days in the Austrian capital, where they are also expected to discuss the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, trans-Atlantic relations and the EU’s possible enlargement in southeastern Europe.