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24th Jan 2020

EU countries turn screw on Iran

  • UN monitors have been given widespread access to control Iranian compliance with the nuclear arms deal (Photo: iaea.org)

EU countries have tilted toward hawkish US diplomacy on Iran, by blaming it for Saudi Arabia attacks and calling for wider disarmament talks.

"We condemn in the strongest terms the attacks on oil facilities on Saudi territory on 14 September ... It is clear to us that Iran bears responsibility for this," the leaders of France, Germany, and the UK said in a joint statement on Monday (23 September).

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"These attacks may have been against Saudi Arabia, but they concern all countries and increase the risk of a major conflict," they added.

Iranian missile strikes on Saudi facilities would represent the first direct territorial attack in modern times in a centuries-old rivalry between the Gulf powers.

The EU endorsement that Iran did the deed lent support for America's recent decision to send Iran-deterrent forces to Saudi Arabia.

The US has also threatened military action against Iran's nuclear facilities if it tried to build an atomic bomb.

The EU leaders voiced "continued commitment" to a UN-backed Iran non-proliferation pact, the increasingly-unravelling Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA).

Iran began violating JCPoA terms after the US walked out of the treaty and reimposed a Western ban on Iranian oil sales.

But France, Germany, and the UK urged Iran to unilaterally "reverse its [JCPoA] decisions".

They also endorsed the US line that "time had come" for wider Iran disarmament talks.

"Iran [ought] to accept negotiation on a long-term framework for its nuclear programme as well as on issues related to regional security, including its missiles programme and other means of delivery," the EU leaders said.

They spoke on the eve of the yearly UN general assembly in New York.

For his part, Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, was even more frank in saying that the JCPoA was up for renegotiation.

"If it was a bad deal - and I'm willing to accept that it had many, many defects - then let's do a better deal," Johnson told the NBC broadcaster in the US also on Monday.

"There's one guy who can do a better deal and one guy who understands how to get a difficult partner like Iran over the line and that is the president of the United States. So I hope that there will be a [Donald] Trump deal," Johnson added.

The EU had previously refrained from blaming Iran for Gulf region attacks.

It had also stuck to the JCPoA, quite doggedly, and is still preparing to a launch a new trade vehicle, called Instex, to handle Iran oil sales.

The EU's southern neighbourhood has for a long time been a ring of fire, with conflicts in Libya, Israel, Syria, and Yemen.

And the European leaders urged "de-escalation" on Iran via "sustained diplomatic efforts" with "all parties".

But for his part, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Zarif rejected Johnson's and any broader talk of a post-JCPoA accord.

The EU should stop "parroting absurd US claims and requests", Zarif said in response to Monday's European statement.

"No new deal before [EU and US] compliance with [the] current one," he also said, as Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, prepared to take the podium at the UN meeting in New York.

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