European powers urge Trump to preserve Iran nuclear deal

‘No alternative’ to agreement, say EU foreign ministers, ahead of key US sanctions decision

Britain’s foreign secretary Boris Johnson speaks alongside  German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel and the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on the Iran nuclear deal, in Brussels on Thursday. Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

Britain’s foreign secretary Boris Johnson speaks alongside German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel and the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on the Iran nuclear deal, in Brussels on Thursday. Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

 

The EU’s top foreign ministers have warned Donald Trump there is “no alternative” to the teetering nuclear agreement with Iran on the eve of a US decision whether to keep the deal alive.

Ministers from Germany, France and the UK met Federica Mogherini, Brussels’ top diplomat, and Iran’s Javad Zarif in Brussels on Thursday to throw the EU’s weight behind the 2015 nuclear accord Donald Trump has attacked as the “worst deal ever”.

The US president refused in October formally to endorse or “certify” the agreement, accusing Tehran of breaching the terms of the deal. He is due to decide by Friday on whether to approve a continued waiver of nuclear-related sanctions on Tehran or put the deal in jeopardy.

The EU continues to uphold the agreement, insisting that Iran has met all the terms of the landmark accord, which is designed to rein in Tehran’s nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief.

In proclaiming that there was “no alternative” but to stay the course with the deal, Jean-Yves Le Drian, French foreign minister, added: “It is necessary that our US allies do the same. We see no reason at all for breaking away from the existing and positive momentum that has been achieved”.

‘Better alternative’

Boris Johnson, Britain’s foreign secretary, said the onus was on critics of the deal – known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – to come up with a “better alternative”.

“It is incumbent on those who oppose the JCPOA to come up with a better solution, which we haven’t seen so far,” he said.

Western countries – not including the US – have announced large-scale trade and investment accords with the Islamic republic since sanctions were lifted in January 2016 – although the flow of funds has fallen short of Iranians’ expectations and many non-nuclear related sanctions remain in place.

“The deal is working. It is delivering on its main goal which means keeping the Iranian nuclear programme in check and under close surveillance,” said Ms Mogherini after meeting with Mr Zarif.

She said keeping the nuclear deal alive would allow for “continued dialogue with Iran on all issues”, adding the accord was “making the world safer” and “preventing a nuclear arms race in the region”.

Europe’s show of diplomatic unity comes as US-Iran relations have soured further following the eruption of anti-regime protests in Iran two weeks ago. Mr Trump has forcefully condemned the Iranian regime’s response to the street demonstrations that have killed 21, tweeting it was “time for change” in the country.

‘US-led plot’

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader and one of the main focuses of anti-regime anger, has blamed the protests on a US-led plot.

Ms Mogherini said the ministers had “briefly discussed internal recent events in Iran” on Thursday.

Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s foreign minister, said Europe would “protect” the accord “against any possible undermining decision from wherever it may come”.

“It sends a very dangerous signal that the only agreement that prevents the proliferation of nuclear weapons is negatively impacted,” he said.

Tehran has hit back at Washington for failing to keep up its end of the bargain. Speaking after the meeting, Mr Zarif said any move to undermine the deal endorsed by the UN, Russia and China was “unacceptable”.

“ [The] E3 and EU fully aware that Iran’s continued compliance conditioned on full compliance by the US,” tweeted Mr Zarif.

Iran has historically insisted its nuclear programme is purely peaceful, despite widespread suspicions in the US and elsewhere that the country has long sought nuclear weapons capability. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018