Iran pushes for EU guarantees as diplomats meet in Vienna
Top nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi has said Iran will decide soon whether to stay in the 2015 nuclear deal as he urged the Europeans to guarantee Tehran’s interests under the accord after the US withdrawal.
Araqchi arrived in Vienna on Friday to meet his counterparts from Europe to discuss the future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) after President Donald Trump’s dramatic announcement to leave it.
“We are yet to decide whether we will stay in the JCPOA or leave it and this depends on how the other members can compensate one member’s exit,” the Fars news agency quoted Araqchi as saying.
“The Europeans must specifically tell us how they can guarantee Iran’s interests in the deal in the absence of the US and its re-imposition of sanctions,” he added.
Since Trump’s May 8 decision to quit the JCPOA, other signatories of the deal — the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany– have had a tough task on their hands to preserve it.
Araqchi said, “The US is no longer viewed by us and other signatories as a member of the JCPOA and we will see in our Joint Commission meetings how the JCPOA can survive without America.”
He said Iran and the Europeans had already discussed the sanctions and their effects on different sectors, including energy, automotive industry, transportation, aviation, banking and insurance.
Another Iranian official said Iran expects European powers to give it a package of economic measures by the end of the month to compensate Washington’s withdrawal.
“We expect the package to be given to us by the end of May,” he said, adding, “I’m sorry to say that we haven’t seen the Plan B yet. The Plan B has just started to be figured out.”
The official said the deal has been put “in intensive care” by Washington’s dramatic withdrawal. “We have now a deal which is in the intensive care unit, it’s dying.”
While Russia and China have expressed unshakable support for the deal, the other three European governments have been torn between pleasing the US as a key ally and protecting their own interests in the profitable Iranian markets.
Trump has said he would reinstate all nuclear-related sanctions that were lifted under the deal, vowing to punish companies and countries that violate those and the harsher bans that will follow them shortly.
The Russian president warns of “deplorable” consequences if Europe fails to preserve the Iran nuclear deal after Washington’s pullout.
Iran needs solid guarantees
Iran says it will hold to its end of the deal for now but has doubts whether the Europeans can provide the solid guarantees that it has requested to salvage it.
“I am personally maybe not optimistic but… I am trying my best to come to a conclusion,” the Iranian official said.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said Thursday that Iran does not seek a confrontation with Europe, but the UK, France and Germany have shown in the past that they would follow the US whenever it comes to sensitive issues.
The Leader also set out conditions for Tehran to stay in the nuclear deal with world powers, including steps by European banks to safeguard trade with Tehran after the US withdrawal from the agreement.
The Leader says US enmity with Iran is deep but all American plots against the country have failed since the victory of the Islamic Revolution.
Ayatollah Khamenei added that European powers must protect Iranian oil sales from US pressure and continue buying Iranian crude, and must also promise they would not seek new negotiations on Iran’s missile program and regional activities.
The Iranian official said on Friday: “We don’t have enough time. We expect today to take a unified position against the withdrawal of the United States and compensate for the US absence in the deal.”
“If not we would go for a ministerial (meeting) and after that if Iran is still not satisfied we would take the decision.”
The US Treasury announced more sanctions on Thursday on several Iranian and Turkish companies and a number of aircraft in a move targeting four Iranian airlines.
That came even as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) once again confirmed Iran’s commitment to the JCPOA in a new report on Thursday.
The report, seen by AFP, called on Iran to remain compliant with the JCPOA and even go beyond its legal obligations in order to boost international confidence in Tehran’s commitments.