The European signatories to a nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers in 2015 have triggered a diplomatic “dispute mechanism”, in their strongest response yet to Tehran’s steps away from the unravelling pact.
Following Washington’s decision to withdraw from the deal in May 2018, Iran began dropping its commitments under the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
On January 6, days after the US assassination of a top Iranian general, Tehran took a further step by announcing it would scrap limits on enriching uranium, though it said it would continue cooperating with the United Nations nuclear watchdog.
“We do not accept the argument that Iran is entitled to reduce compliance with the JCPOA,” France, Germany and the United Kingdom said in a joint statement on Tuesday, adding they had no choice but to trigger the process that could eventually lead to UN sanctions.
“Instead of reversing course, Iran has chosen to further reduce compliance,” the statement said.
Iran has dismissed the European move, but said it would be willing to consider efforts to bolster the fragile deal.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran, as in the past, has complete readiness to support any [act of] goodwill and constructive effort to save this important international agreement,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a statement.
Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said the aim of the dispute mechanism was not to reimpose sanctions, but “to find a solution for the return to full compliance” with the deal, which was also signed by Russia and China.
Russia condemned the EU move, warning it risked causing a “new escalation”.
The foreign ministry said in a statement: “We do not rule out that the thoughtless actions of the Europeans could lead to a new escalation around the Iranian nuclear accord.”
The ministry added that Moscow sees “no reason” for such a move.
“Despite all the challenges the Iranian nuclear accord has not lost its relevance,” the ministry concluded.