For the past two months, American, French, British and German diplomats have been working behind the scenes to fix the Iran deal and prevent US President Donald Trump from abandoning it, according to an Israeli TV report Monday.
On Thursday in Berlin, the parties reportedly worked out a proposal that would not cancel the nuclear accords, nor reopen it to negotiations, yet would significantly increase the pressure on Iran.
A European diplomat involved in the discussions told Israel’s Channel 10 that despite Trump’s threats to walk away from the Iran deal on May 12, when it is up for renewal, the gaps between the US and other signatories who want to safeguard the accord are actually narrowing.
The diplomat told the news station that the parties are close to agreeing to place sanctions on Iran’s development of intercontinental ballistic missiles with a range of more than 2,000 kilometers (12,500 miles). They have also nearly reached a deal to impose US and European sanctions against Iran’s involvement in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen, where Tehran is funding rebel groups to destabilize the governments. Finally, they have moved closer to calling for better inspections of nuclear sites by the United Nations.
On Monday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian indicated that a tougher stance toward Iran could help keep the 2015 nuclear deal in place.
“We are totally determined to make sure that the Vienna deal is respected. And we must act with strength to achieve that,” he told reporters outside an EU meeting. “But at the same time, we can’t exclude the Iranian responsibility in the missile proliferation and the very questionable role of Iran in the whole Middle-East region.”
US President Donald Trump said in January that the deal between Iran and major powers must be “fixed” by May 12, or the United States will walk away, likely ending the accord. The comments came as the European signatories to the deal reportedly mulled a proposal to stiffen penalties on the Islamic Republic.
According to a confidential document circulated to EU members and obtained by Reuters Thursday, Germany, the UK, and France have suggested that the European Union impose new sanctions on Iran to mollify Trump.
The three, all signatories to the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, were checking whether the other countries would agree to such actions, targeting certain “militias and commanders,” in a bid to save the deal from collapse.
“We will… be circulating in the coming days a list of persons and entities that we believe should be targeted in view of their publicly demonstrated roles” in the missile program and the Syrian civil war, the document said, according to Reuters.
It spoke of “intensive talks” with Washington to “achieve a clear and lasting reaffirmation of US support for the agreement beyond May 12.”
However, according to the Israeli report Monday night, there is still strong disagreement between the parties about the accord’s so-called sunset clauses — which expire in the next 8-13 years, potentially enabling Iran to revive its nuclear program..
Trump has reportedly said that the clauses must be removed so that Iran will not be able to obtain nuclear weapons in the future.
According to the report, the Europeans are not optimistic that they will be able to reach an agreement that will satisfy the unpredictable Trump.
The British, French and Germans are worried that even if they reach a compromise with the American negotiating team, the president will simply tear it up and nullify the Iran deal.
On Monday, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the EU is reluctant to change the Iran nuclear agreement, despite Trump’s threats.
She said after chairing talks among the foreign ministers of EU countries that Europeans “attach strategic importance to the full implementation of the agreement by all parties.”
Mogherini added, “It is for us a matter of security, for Europe and for the rest of the world.”
If the pact were disrupted, she said, it “would create an additional security threat and concern in the region.”
Mogherini stressed that the EU hopes to dissuade Iran from developing missiles or undermining regional security, but that work must happen “outside the scope of the nuclear agreement.”