European leaders vow to step up efforts to get US and Iran talking
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European leaders vow to step up efforts to get US and Iran talking

After Helsinki meeting, German FM says nuclear deal signatories want to build on momentum from G7 summit, where Trump indicated willingness to meet with Rouhani

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas speak to journalists as he arrives for the Informal Meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Helsinki, Finland on August 29, 2019. (Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva / AFP)
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas speak to journalists as he arrives for the Informal Meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Helsinki, Finland on August 29, 2019. (Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva / AFP)

European countries will step up diplomatic efforts to save the beleaguered Iran nuclear deal, Germany’s foreign minister said Friday after talks with Britain and France.

Tensions have spiked recently in the Gulf, where Iran has seized Western tankers as Tehran and Washington have locked horns over the 2015 deal.

US President Donald Trump last year unilaterally pulled out of the accord that handed Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its atomic program.

The move alarmed European powers, which see the deal as the best way to stop Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, and infuriated the Islamic Republic.

The foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany — the three European parties to the deal — were joined by EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini for talks on the sidelines of an EU meeting in Helsinki.

Germany’s Heiko Maas said the trio wanted to build on momentum from last weekend’s G7 summit, where Trump indicated willingness to talk to Iran.

“Our priority is to open the dialogue window between the US and Iran,” Maas told reporters.

British foreign secretary Dominic Raab arrives for the second day of the informal meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers in Helsinki, Finland on August 30, 2019. (Jussi Nukari/Lehtikuva/AFP)

“Especially after the G7 summit in Biarritz we are all of the opinion that the momentum that perhaps exists, the readiness for dialogue on both sides… must now be used.”

Mogherini said Thursday the EU would support such a move, provided the current deal was preserved.

The Europeans have repeatedly said they are committed to saving the deal, but efforts to shield Iran’s economy from the reimposition of US sanctions have so far borne little fruit.

“We will be discussing further diplomatic efforts together with the French and the British, including in the region with all the countries bordering the Gulf,” Maas said.

Ahead of the meeting, British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab also said he wanted to “build on the momentum of the positive G7 talks on Iran.”

As well as mooting the summit with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani, Trump also appeared open to a French suggestion that Iran be given a line of credit to help stabilize its economy.

“The nuclear deal is the only deal on the table that prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and we will continue working together to encourage Iran to uphold the agreement in full,” Raab said. “We also need the broadest international support possible to tackle the threats to international shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.”

Trump’s apparent openness to the notion of talks with Iran has reportedly caused intense concern in Jerusalem and a Channel 13 report Thursday said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made “frantic” efforts to reach Trump on Sunday to dissuade the US president from meeting with Zarif, but was unable to reach him.

In a phone call Friday, Netanyahu urged French President Emmanuel Macron not to negotiate with Iran.

According to a readout from his office, the Israeli premier said that, with Tehran increasing its regional aggression and threatening Israel and others, “now is “precisely not the time” to hold conciliatory talks with the regime.

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