Saturday, 18 January, 2020

France, Germany, UK pull diplomatic trigger on Iran deal dispute

Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah addresses a funeral ceremony to mourn Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani in Beirut's suburbs European powers trigger Iran nuclear deal dispute process
Deanna Wagner | 14 January, 2020, 15:24

The accord - deemed at the time to be a landmark achievement - sought to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons in exchange for sanctions relief and global powers beginning to welcome the country back into the worldwide community.

Britain, France and Germany have triggered the dispute resolution mechanism in the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, the biggest step the Europeans have taken in response as Tehran has backed off nuclear commitments.

To trigger the dispute mechanism, the three European countries notified the European Union, which acts as guarantor of the agreement.

European diplomats stressed the move was not being taken to reimpose sanctions, but to try to find some way to press Iran to come back into compliance with the deal.

The UK, France and Germany issued a joint statement defending the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but in an interview with the BBC's Breakfast programme, Mr Johnson opened the door to the deal being replaced.

Despite Tuesday's move, European powers reaffirmed their willingness to preserve the agreement.

If the Security Council does not vote within 30 days to continue sanctions relief, sanctions in place under previous United Nations resolutions would be reimposed - known as a "snapback".

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Washington's European allies have tried to keep the nuclear agreement from collapsing since President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of it in 2018.

"Given recent events, it is all the more important that we do not add a nuclear proliferation crisis to the current escalation threatening the whole region", they said.

Boris Johnson has offered a major concession to Donald Trump, suggesting the worldwide deal limiting Iran's nuclear programme could be "replaced" with a "Trump deal". Iran has said it will not negotiate unless sanctions are lifted.

European diplomats remain sceptical that Trump's policy of maximum economic pressure will persuade Iran to renegotiate the deal, but instead strengthen the position of hardliners in Tehran. President Trump is a great dealmaker, by his own account.

The three European powers party to the deal act though the EU, which coordinates any negotiations over it with the other parties, which include Russian Federation and China.

"At one point we have to show our credibility", said one of the European diplomats. There would then be 15 days to resolve differences, a deadline that can be extended by consensus.