Britain, France and Germany made a joint plea to Donald Trump on Thursday to uphold a pact stopping Iran getting nuclear weapons, a day before the US president is expected to decide whether to re-impose sanctions in a move likely to sink the deal.
In sharp contrast to Trump’s view that the 2015 pact was “the worst deal ever negotiated”, the foreign ministers of the three countries and the EU’s top diplomat said there was no alternative to it and that sanctions should remain lifted.
“We agree on this approach, we want to protect (the deal) against every possible decision that might undermine it,” Germany’s Sigmar Gabriel said alongside his French and British counterparts and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini after meeting Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
“It is absolutely necessary to have this to prevent the development of nuclear weapons at a time when other parts of the world are discussing how to get them,” Gabriel said.
The meeting in Brussels was choreographed to send a message to Washington before Trump is due to decide whether to re-impose oil sanctions lifted under the deal. If that happens, Iran has said it would no longer be bound by the pact and could return to producing enriched uranium.
Zarif tweeted that the meeting had shown a “strong consensus” that Iran was complying with the pact, had the right to enjoy its economic benefits and “any move that undermines (it) is unacceptable”.
“E3 (Germany, France and Britain) and EU fully aware that Iran’s continued compliance (is) conditioned on full compliance by the US,” Zarif added.
European countries have benefited from renewed trade with Iran as sanctions have been lifted, while US companies are still largely barred from doing business with the Islamic Republic due to other sanctions unrelated to the nuclear issue.
“The deal is working. It is delivering on its main goal which means keeping the Iranian nuclear programme in check and under close surveillance,” Mogherini said, adding that the International Atomic Energy Agency had shown in nine reports that Iran is meeting its commitments.
Trump formally rejected the deal in October, although the United States has not yet pulled out.
That major shift in US policy put the United States at odds with its European allies, as well as Russia and China that are also signatories to the nuclear accord, in the most visible transatlantic split on foreign policy since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.
European governments are troubled by Trump’s “America first” rhetoric and inconsistent statements on Nato and the European Union, while they consider the Iran nuclear deal one of West’s the biggest diplomatic achievements in decades.
France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the deal should be kept in place so that Europe and the United States could move on to other issues, such as confronting Iran over its missile programme and involvement in wars in Yemen and Syria.
“We do not hide other disagreements, which exist … both in the ballistic field and over Iran’s action in the whole region,” Le Drian said, adding that Europe viewed those issues as separate from the nuclear one.
Gabriel said Zarif had agreed to discuss the issues in a more regular and structured way, but gave no details.