Britain, France and Germany demanded that Iran remain in the fraying 2015 nuclear deal on Friday but did not press to reactivate United Nations-approved economic sanctions that crippled the Mideast regional power.
The European powers urged Tehran to stop taking steps away from compliance with the treaty, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. Their meeting in Vienna included China, the European Union and Russia — collectively all the remaining parties to the landmark treaty.
The JCPOA represented a gambit by world powers to permit Iran’s economic opening to the West in exchange for curbs on its nuclear ambitions. It has deteriorated since U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States and reinstated punishing economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Helga Schmid, who chaired a three-hour meeting as the E.U.’s secretary general of the European External Action Service, said all the remaining signatories “have a collective responsibility to preserve” the JCPOA, which capped years of difficult negotiations when then-U.S. President Barack Obama was in office.
The meeting was a “strong call for full Iran deal implementation to reverse [the] recent negative trend,” she said, and all nations agreed to “report back to their capitals, as strong efforts are needed by all sides.”
The deal was crafted to include all five permanent, veto-wielding members of the 15-nation U.N. Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus the E.U. and Germany. The Security Council unanimously endorsed the JCPOA in July 2015.
Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the deal and to reintroduce U.S. sanctions on Iran last year ratcheted up the pressure on the Islamic Republic’s struggling economy and ruling regime while further inflaming transatlantic tensions. That left the JCPOA dependent on the six remaining participants.
Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s envoy to international organizations in Vienna, said a meeting earlier this year “proved that despite all the difficulties and all the differences, its participants remain fully united in their support and commitment to JCPOA,” and this also was “the major conclusion” from Friday’s meeting.
— Helga Maria Schmid (@HelgaSchmid_SG) December 6, 2019
Alarm over nuclear missiles
Ahead of the JCPOA meeting in Vienna, Britain, France and Germany protested Iran’s development of “nuclear-capable ballistic missiles” as “inconsistent” with Security Council resolutions.
The three nations wrote in a letter on Thursday to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres that Iran’s new Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile variant is “technically capable of delivering a nuclear weapon.” It cited footage of a flight test for the missile taken from social media in April.
Iran rejected the Europeans’ letter as a “desperate falsehood” but vowed to press ahead with its ballistic missile program. “Iran is determined to resolutely continue its activities related to ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles,” Iran’s U.N. envoy Majid Takhte Ravanchi wrote to Guterres.
A 2015 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency said there was evidence that Iran did “detailed” research from 2002 to 2003 on how to arm a Shahab-3 with a nuclear warhead, the three European nations noted. Their letter also cited the launch of a Borkan-3 medium-range ballistic missile and an attempted test of a Safir satellite launch vehicle that bears some similarities to a ballistic missile.
The Trump administration also has accused Tehran of seeking nuclear-capable missiles, which Iran denied. A Security Council meeting to discuss its 2015 resolution on the nuclear deal is slated for December 19.