European officials sought to reassure allies that the nuclear deal with Iran would not dissolve because of the US decision to withdraw from the pact, and planned a meeting with Iranian representatives next week.
The EU believes “that this is an agreement which belongs to the international community,” EU ambassador to China Hans Dietmar Schweisgut said during a press briefing in Beijing. “This is not an agreement that will fall apart if you just walk away.”
Negotiated by the Obama administration, the 2015 Iran accord included EU members Germany, France and Britain, and had lifted most US and international economic sanctions against Iran. In exchange, Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear program, making it impossible to produce a bomb and establishing rigorous inspections.
US President Donald Trump abruptly withdrew from the deal Tuesday and restored harsh sanctions against Iran.
The foreign ministers of France, Britain and Germany will meet Iranian representatives next week, Paris said Wednesday.
“We will meet with my British and German colleagues on Monday, and also with representatives of Iran, to consider the entire situation,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told RTL radio.
French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said separately on France Culture radio that Trump’s decision was “an error” not just for international security but from an economic point of view.
It was “not acceptable” for the US to be the “economic policeman of the planet,” he said.
Trump defied European pleas to stay in the pact, which curbs Iran’s nuclear program, and reimposed crippling sanctions which will come into effect within six months.
The decision marked a stark diplomatic defeat for Europe, whose leaders, repeatedly and in person, had begged Trump to think again.
Le Maire pointed out that the withdrawal gives European firms doing business in Iran the “very short time of six months” to wind up investments — or risk US sanctions.
“In two years, France has tripled its trade surplus with Iran,” he said.
Le Maire said this would lead to “consequences” for major French companies, such as Total, Sanofi, Renault and Peugeot.
He said he would have speak with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin by the end of the week to “explore what the possibilities are” to avoid the sanctions, including possible exemptions.
While Iran’s arch foes Israel and Saudi Arabia welcomed Trump’s decision, other signatories to the existing deal — Russia, China and the European Union — vowed to stick by it.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani accused Trump of “psychological warfare” and said Iran could resume uranium enrichment “without limit” but that it would discuss its response with other parties to the deal before announcing a decision.