EU foreign ministers meet to save Iran nuclear deal
Foreign ministers from France, Germany and the UK were meeting in Brussels on Monday in an attempt to save the Iran nuclear deal.
Supporters of the deal are concerned over increasing tensions in the Gulf after the US unilaterally pulled out of the agreement last year and imposed sanctions on Tehran.
Iran has responded by announcing it would start enriching uranium beyond limits laid down in the deal.
The stakes were increased by both sides as the UK 10 days ago seized an Iranian oil tanker allegedly carrying oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions and Iran attempted to block a British-owned vessel in the strait of Hormuz.
UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt tried to defuse the situation by offering the release of the tanker if Iran promised it would not unload its oil in Syria.
Hunt's offer was made in a phone call with the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on Saturday.
However, Zarif later said Iran could sell oil to any country it wished, and claimed the seizure was an act of piracy.
“What we are looking for is to give Iran a way out of this so that they can get back into compliance with the nuclear deal,” Hunt said before the summit.
“The Middle East is already one of the most unstable regions in the world, but if the different parties were armed with nuclear weapons, it would represent an existential threat to mankind. I will do everything in my power to prevent that from happening.”
Hunt, running to be the next UK prime minister against Boris Johnson, was also forced to deny a rift with the US over policy on Iran after leaked diplomatic cables from the British ambassador to Washington said US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal to spite his predecessor, Barack Obama, in an act of “diplomatic vandalism”.
The agreement struck in 2015 required Iran to get rid of its medium-enriched uranium, cut its stocks of low-enriched uranium and reduce the number of its gas centrifuges for 13 years in exchange for a lifting of sanctions.
On Sunday the EU3, all signatories to the nuclear deal, said called for both sides to return to the negotiating table.
“The risks are such that it is necessary for all stakeholders to pause and consider the possible consequences of their actions,” the troika said in a statement.
“We believe that the time has come to act responsibly and to look for ways to stop the escalation of tension and resume dialogue.
“We are concerned by the risk that the nuclear deal further unravels under the strain of sanctions imposed by the United States and following Iran’s decision to no longer implement several of the central provisions of the agreement.”