Europe, Iran to meet on backing nuclear deal as Trump decision looms

Source: Europe, Iran to meet on backing nuclear deal as Trump decision looms | The Times of Israel

Washington sends mixed signals on whether it will withdraw from accord as Europeans lobby to preserve pact, Iranians warn of revamped nuke program

File: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, right, and the European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini arrive to attend a press briefing after their meeting, in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, April 16, 2016. (AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Europe and Iran are to put on a united front in support of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal at talks in Brussels Thursday as Washington mulls reimposing sanctions on Tehran.

The European Union and the foreign ministers of Britain, Germany and France will unite to defend the accord, which placed limits on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the relaxing of punishing sanctions but which US President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized and threatened to leave.

While EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini wants to keep the nuclear issue separate from other contentious issues with Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will also face tough questions about recent anti-government protests which left 21 people dead.

Trump, who in October refused to certify Iran was complying with the deal but stopped short of withdrawing from it, is expected to decide on Friday whether to extend waivers on nuclear-related sanctions against Tehran.

US officials and others familiar with the administration’s deliberations told the Associated Press Wednesday that Trump had decided to extend relief from economic sanctions to Iran as part of the nuclear deal, citing progress in amending US legislation that governs Washington’s participation in the landmark accord, potentially staving off a crisis if the US withdraws from the pact. However, two other US sources told AFP that Trump had not yet made a decision.

The EU and other world powers have repeatedly warned it would be a mistake to abandon the deal, thrashed out with Iran over 12 years by the US, Britain, France, China, Germany and Russia.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) shakes hands with his British counterpart Boris Johnson during a meeting in Tehran on December 9, 2017. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

British foreign minister Boris Johnson called the deal “a crucial agreement that makes the world safer.”

“It is vital that we continue to work with our European partners to preserve the Iran deal, and with it the security and prosperity it is bringing to the people of Iran and the world,” he said.

Iran warning

Iran, which on Monday warned the world to get ready for Washington abandoning the deal, has said if the US walks away from the agreement it is ready to give an “appropriate and heavy response.”

Zarif, who traveled to Moscow on Wednesday to seek Russian support, criticized what he called Washington’s “destructive policy.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a meeting with his Russian counterpart in Moscow on January 10, 2018. (AFP Photo/Pool/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

“The United States must understand the unity of the international community over the nuclear deal and change their position as a result,” Zarif said, urging world powers to “resist the hostile actions” of the Trump administration.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said Iran is keeping up its side of the agreement, most recently in November.

After talks in Moscow on Wednesday Zarif tweeted a warning. “Everyone agrees it is imperative that ALL live up to their obligations under JCPOA. IAEA has verified Iran’s full compliance, but continuation will depend on full US compliance,” he wrote. JCPOA is the official name for the deal.

Punishing Tehran

Mogherini, who played an important role in crafting the nuclear accord, has vowed to preserve the deal and has lobbied US lawmakers in Washington.

The US Congress is working on a way to punish Iran for its continuing ballistic missile program and meddling in Middle East conflicts such as Yemen and Syria.

Johnson said these issues would be “an important part of our conversation” in Brussels on Thursday — along with the recent unrest in Iran.

“I will be making it clear to Foreign Minister Zarif, on the subject of the recent protests in Iran, that the right to peaceful demonstration within the law is central to any truly thriving society,” Johnson said.

The 28-member EU has condemned the “unacceptable loss of human lives” in the protests and stressed that peaceful protest and freedom of expression are “fundamental rights.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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