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Iran nuclear deal ‘in intensive care’ as signatories meet in Vienna

For the first time since the accord came into force in 2015, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany gathered -- at Iran’s request -- without the United States, which pulled out on May 8.

world Updated: May 26, 2018 23:32 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse, Vienna
Iran nuclear deal,Vienna,Donald Trump
(L to R) Secretary General of the European Union External Action Service (EEAS) Helga Schmid, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA, Yukiya Amano and political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran Abbas Araghchi attend a special meeting of the Joint Commission of parties to the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) on Iran's nuclear deal at Coburg palace in Vienna, Austria, on May 25, 2018.(AFP)

Signatories of the Iran nuclear deal met in Vienna on Friday in a bid to save the agreement, as Iran warned the deal had been put “in intensive care” by Washington’s dramatic withdrawal earlier this month.

For the first time since the accord came into force in 2015, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany gathered -- at Iran’s request -- without the United States, which pulled out on May 8.

US President Donald Trump has long trashed the deal with Iran -- concluded under his predecessor Barack Obama -- saying it did not do enough to curtail Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

He also said it did not go far enough in restricting Iran’s ballistic missile programme, or its intervention in regional conflicts from Yemen to Iraq and Syria.

Speaking before the meeting, a senior Iranian official rejected any attempt to link the deal, known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to other such issues, saying it would mean “we lose JCPOA and we (would) make the other issues even more complicated to resolve”, adding that it was pointless for the Europeans to try to “appease” Trump.

“We have now a deal which is in the intensive care unit, it’s dying,” he said.

He added that the Europeans had promised Iran an “economic package” to maintain the benefits of the JCPOA for Iran despite the reintroduction of US sanctions.

Iran expected this package by the end of May, he said, adding the country had only “a few weeks” before having to decide whether to keep participating in the deal or not.

Russian delegate Mikhail Ulyanov struck a more upbeat note after the meeting, saying: “We have all chances to succeed, provided that we have is the political will.

“I must tell you that the JCPOA is a major international asset. It does not belong to the United States, it belongs to the whole international community.”

He added that the possibility of referring back to the matter back to the UN “was not discussed during this meeting”.

Since the US pull-out, the other signatories have embarked on a diplomatic marathon to try to keep the agreement afloat.

According to a report seen by AFP Thursday, the International Atomic Energy Agency believes Iran is still abiding by the deal’s key restrictions on its nuclear facilities in return for relief from damaging economic sanctions.

The IAEA, however, is “encouraging (Iran) to go above and beyond the requirements” of the deal in order to boost confidence, said a senior diplomat in Vienna, where the IAEA is based.

Unusually for a meeting of the joint commission, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano was invited to brief the participants on the IAEA’s work in Iran.

Iran has threatened to restart its uranium enrichment programme at an “industrial level” if the deal falls apart.

The five signatories still committed to the agreement have said they want Iran to stay in the deal, with the European countries saying they would not rule out further talks with the Islamic Republic on an expanded text.

However, in the run-up to Friday’s meeting, several Iranian officials warned that there was no question of broadening the discussions.

First Published: May 26, 2018 15:40 IST