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Germany accuses Iran of systematically breaking nuke deal, as top diplomats meet

Foreign ministers of Germany, France and UK convene to discuss state of moribund accord, ‘strongly’ call on Tehran to fulfill obligations

Rafael Mariano Grossi, right, director general of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, left, leave after a press conference as part of a meeting in Berlin, Germany, Oct. 26, 2020. (AP/Michael Sohn, pool)
Rafael Mariano Grossi, right, director general of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, left, leave after a press conference as part of a meeting in Berlin, Germany, Oct. 26, 2020. (AP/Michael Sohn, pool)

BERLIN, Germany  — The German, French and British foreign ministers were meeting Monday to discuss the future of the international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program amid hopes that the incoming US administration might help breathe new life into the accord, Germany’s Foreign Ministry said.

The three European powers have spearheaded efforts to keep alive the agreement, concluded in Vienna in 2015 and officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. Russia and China also remain on board.

Ahead of the meeting, German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Andrea Sasse said that Iran was systematically violating the 2015 accord.

“Together with our partners, we strongly call on Iran to stop violating the deal and return to fulfilling all its nuclear obligations completely,” she said.

US President-elect Joe Biden has said he hopes to return the US to the accord, in which Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions. Outgoing President Donald Trump withdrew the country from the agreement in 2018 and imposed crippling economic sanctions on Iran, which responded by publicly abandoning nuclear restrictions in the agreement.

Monday’s meeting at a government guesthouse in Berlin, which wasn’t announced in advance, aimed to discuss “what a further approach involving all signatories to the JCPOA, and perhaps also with a new US administration, could look like,” Sasse told reporters.

“We are confident that a constructive approach by the US toward the Vienna nuclear agreement could contribute significantly to breaking the current negative spiral we are seeing with Iran, and opening new prospects for the preservation of the JCPOA,” she added.

Sasse said Monday’s meeting also would address Iran’s missile program and wider regional role — issues that are not addressed by the nuclear agreement, to the displeasure of its critics.

Asked whether the Europeans fear Trump taking further steps against Iran before he leaves office that would undermine their hopes, Sasse replied: “If there are such measures, we will evaluate them if they happen.”

US President Donald Trump arrives to address the nation from the White House on the ballistic missile strike that Iran launched against Iraqi air bases housing US troops accompanied by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, center, and US Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, January 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Trump was recently talked back from moving ahead with a military strike on Iran’s main nuclear site by advisers who included Pompeo, according to a New York Times report.

Biden has argued that Trump’s withdrawal from the deal signaled to American allies that it could not be trusted to hold agreements and that while the accord may not have been perfect, it had been effective in blocking Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon.

Since Trump pulled out of the accord and began imposing crushing economic sanctions on Tehran, the Islamic Republic has retaliated by producing more and more highly enriched fissile material in violation of the agreement, getting closer and closer to a bomb, while still leaving room for a return to negotiations.

The UN’s atomic watchdog agency said earlier this month that Iran continues to increase its stockpile of low-enriched uranium far beyond the limits set in the accord and to enrich it to a greater purity than permitted.

Taking a step back from the brink, Iran’s foreign minister said Tuesday that Tehran was willing to return to the deal if Biden lifts sanctions on Iran after entering the White House.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on against reengaging with Iran on the nuclear deal, saying, “There can be no going back to the previous nuclear agreement. We must stick to an uncompromising policy of ensuring that Iran will not develop nuclear weapons.”

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