Friday

7th May 2021

EU urges Iran to back down from nuclear escalation

  • Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, a UN body in Vienna, have said Iran had so far fully complied with the JCPoA (Photo: iaea.org)

Partial resumption of EU trade should be enough to stop Iran from "escalating" a Middle East nuclear dispute, Europe has said, after the US threatened to make Iranians "eat grass".

"We strongly urge Iran to continue to implement its commitments under the JCPoA in full as it has done until now and to refrain from any escalatory steps," the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and the UK said in a statement on Thursday (9 May).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini, who helped broker the JCPoA, with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (Photo: eeas.europa.eu)

"We reject any ultimatums", they added, after Iran threatened to exit the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

"At the same time we recall our own firm commitments under the agreement including as regards sanctions-lifting," they also said.

They "regretted" an earlier US decision to quit the accord.

And they promised to "continue pursuing efforts to enable the continuation of legitimate trade with Iran" via Instex, a new trade vehicle due to be up and running in June.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, echoed the statement in her remarks after an EU summit in Romania the same day.

Iran should avoid "escalation", she said.

She criticised its aggressive rhetoric on Israel and its proxy wars in Syria and Yemen.

She also acknowledged that the Instex project had its "limitations" in circumventing the US sanctions.

But Merkel said Iran could prove it was a responsible player on the world stage by sticking to the 2015 deal.

"By adhering to this diplomatic solution, Iran also has a chance to make it clear that it has a peaceful intention. So it's an added value for Iran, in my view, to continue to commit to this agreement," she said.

The EU spoke out after Iranian president Hassan Rouhani threatened on TV one day earlier to resume uranium enrichment and plutonium production in 60 days unless Europe began doing business with its oil firms and banks.

"After a year of patience, Iran stops measures that the US has made impossible to continue," he said.

But "if the five countries join negotiations and help Iran to reach its benefits in the field of oil and banking, Iran will return to its commitments according to the nuclear deal," he added.

The potential collapse of the JCPoA comes after US president Donald Trump walked out of the deal last year and threatened to impose fines on EU firms that did business with Iran.

The EU-brokered accord, signed also by Russia, was designed to stop a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and the risk of a US or Israeli conflict with Iran that that might entail.

Trump imposed extra sanctions on Iran this week and moved an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, ratcheting up tensions.

'Eat grass'

"The Iranian people do not want to eat grass so that the regime can have a nuclear weapon," Brian Hook, his top Iran envoy, said.

"We will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons ... We will continue to fight those who seek to take our lives," Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu also said on Iran's uranium ultimatum.

The Instex vehicle, based in Germany, is designed to enable trade in food and medicines, but resumption of oil-buying remains on hold as EU, Indian, and even Chinese firms ponder the potential US backlash.

The "EU statement today is why the JCPoA is where it is: the US has bullied Europe - and the rest of the world - for a year and the EU can only express 'regret'," Iranian foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, said on Thursday in reaction to the EU's appeal.

"Instead of demanding that Iran unilaterally abide by a multilateral accord, the EU should uphold obligations - including normalisation of economic ties," he added.

Implicit threat

Rohani, the Iranian president, also made an implicit threat on Wednesday to let more heroin and migrants flow to Europe from the region if it did not meet demands.

"You are obliged [to uphold the JCPoA] ... for your own security, for protecting your youths against drugs as well as controlling influx of immigrants," he said.

It was up to "the Europeans, who committed to find a solution to the problem created by the Americans, to fulfill their promise,''Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov noted the same day.

But a US treasury official dealing with counter-terrorism, Sigal Mandelker, said the Instex project was doomed to fail due to the American restrictions.

"I question how that [Instex trading] is even remotely possible," he said on Tuesday.

"I think it's extremely complicated for the Europeans to think that they're going to be able to do that ... Where we see sanctionable activity, we're going to take action to confront it," he added.

EU firms in Iran caught between US and Europe

European companies with business in Iran appear caught in a tug of war between the European Union and Washington. The US demands they leave Iran or face sanctions. The European Union says remain in Iran or face penalties a home.

EU urges US not to start war with Iran

Europe's top diplomats have said US actions risked triggering a conflict with Iran, as America makes plans to pour troops into Middle East in echoes of Iraq war.

Analysis

EU should stop an insane US-Iran war

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!", US president Donald Trump tweeted on Monday (20 May).

News in Brief

  1. Israel study: Two Pfizer doses give over 95% protection
  2. Barnier calls Johnson a 'bulldozer' in Brexit memoirs
  3. Hungary and Poland prevent 'gender' in summit declaration
  4. Draghi: Italy to welcome foreign tourists from mid-May
  5. Germany announces new, stricter, emission cuts
  6. Channel Islands 'blockade' threat in UK and France row
  7. French reporter kidnapped by rebels in Mali
  8. Trump's Facebook ban upheld but with caveats

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. Greek prisons accused of abusing detainees
  2. EU and US join up against China on Taiwan
  3. Conservatives' Covid-strategy wins in lockdown-fatigue Madrid
  4. Commission drafts new rules targeting foreign state aid
  5. Why Europe should stop worrying about 'sportswashing'
  6. Conference on Future of Europe must listen to local voices
  7. What happens now to the EU's post-Covid recovery fund?
  8. EU turns from China to India on free trade

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us