EU Criticizes Iran Over Nuclear Violations
Britain, France and Germany are increasing pressure on Iran to end its violations of an international nuclear deal.
The Europeans say they want to settle differences through negotiations. But they admit the process could lead to a return of United Nations sanctions against Iran.
The European Union (EU) members and Iran signed the nuclear agreement in 2015. Also signing were China, Russia and the United States.
Britain, France and Germany wrote a letter to the EU's foreign policy chief. The letter stated that they had no choice but to use the deal's "dispute mechanism" because of Iranian violations of the agreement.
The three said they rejected Iran's argument that Iran was justified to violate the deal because the United States withdrew from the agreement in 2018.
"We have therefore been left with no choice, given Iran's actions, but to register today our concerns that Iran is not meeting its commitments," the EU members said in a statement.
Iran's government reacts
Hours later, Iran's Foreign Ministry warned of a "serious and strong" reaction to the European move.
However, a foreign ministry spokesman official said Iran was "fully ready to answer any good will and constructive effort" that keeps the nuclear deal in place. Iran's official IRNA news agency reported his comments.
EU foreign policy leader Josep Borrell said the pressure from Europe does not mean Iran will face new international sanctions.
The aim of the move by France, Germany and Britain is "to return (Iran) to full compliance...of this agreement, he said.
The three countries said that they want to arrive at a solution using "diplomatic dialogue" and made no threat of sanctions in their statement.
They also tried to distance themselves from the sanctions declared by the United States. U.S. officials have said those measures are part of a "pressure" campaign against Iran.
"Our three countries are not joining a campaign to (put) maximum pressure against Iran," the Europeans said. "Our hope is to bring Iran back into full compliance with its commitments."
The nuclear deal's dispute resolution mechanism
The 2015 nuclear deal is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as JCPOA. It seeks to prevent Iran from making a nuclear weapon by setting limits on its nuclear program in exchange for economic actions, such as easing sanctions. Iran's government has said it does not want a nuclear weapon.
Under its dispute resolution mechanism, countries have 30 days to settle their dispute; however, the time limit can be extended. If the problem cannot be solved, the issue could be brought to the United Nations Security Council. The council's members could decide to re-establish the sanctions that had been removed under the terms of the deal.
U.S. President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. government out of the nuclear agreement in May 2018. He said the deal should be re-negotiated because it did not set limitations on Iran's ballistic missile program or its involvement in conflicts in other countries. Since then he has put back American sanctions, which have hurt Iran's economy.
To answer the U.S. decision, Iran has slowly pulled back from the agreement. Iran wants to pressure the other countries involved to provide economic incentives to answer the American sanctions.
China and Russia had been against using the dispute mechanism. However, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement that the three European countries "could no longer leave the growing Iranian violations of the nuclear agreement unanswered."
"Our goal is clear: we want to...come to a diplomatic solution within the agreement," Maas said.
With the growing worries that the deal cannot be saved, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is suggesting the agreement could be somehow re-negotiated to answer some of Trump's worries.
"Let's work together to replace the JCPOA with the Trump deal," he told the BBC.
I'm Dorothy Gundy.
And I'm Susan Shand.