Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javid Zarif on Sunday warned European countries of consequences if they do not normalize economic relations with Iran as part of the international accord curbing its nuclear program.
“The responsibility of the Europeans and other signatories to the nuclear deal is to normalize the condition for Iran’s economic activities,” Zarif was quoted saying by Iran’s official IRNA news agency.
He did not specify what retaliatory measures Iran would employ, but noted the 60-day deadline it issued last month on the anniversary of US President Donald Trump’s pullout from the nuclear deal and reimposition of sanctions. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said then that Iran would enrich its uranium stockpile closer to weapons-grade levels if the agreement’s European signatories did not grant it sanctions relief in defiance of the United States.
“It is a matter of [the] Islamic Republic of Iran’s plan. We announced our plan by saying that we would do so during the first 60 days, and will take other measures within the next 60 days, and then the following steps will be decided,” Zarif said.
“We will decide proportionate to what they do,” he added.
He also said Europe was not in a position to criticize Iran over non-nuclear issues, appearing to refer to concerns over Tehran’s missile program and backing for armed groups in the Middle East.
In addition to China and Russia, both allies of Iran, the remaining signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal are the United Kingdom, France and Germany. The three countries have reiterated their continued support for the accord, while also criticizing Iran over its missile work and activities in the region.
Zarif’s warning came just days after Israel’s Channel 13 reported that Israeli intelligence has identified a significant acceleration of work on the production of new uranium centrifuges, as Tehran prepares for the possibility of boosting enrichment activities with the nuclear deal teetering on the edge of collapse.
The intelligence sources were not named, nor were further details provided on the alleged centrifuge production efforts.
The sources cited by the network also said, however, that the Islamic Republic was making back-channel overtures to Washington expressing a willingness to renew talks in a bid to find common ground.
That assessment appeared to agree with statements made by Trump on Thursday.
Speaking after talks in northern France with French President Emmanuel Macron, an ardent supporter of diplomacy with Iran, Trump indicated he could consider talking to Tehran.
“I understand they want to talk and if they want to talk that’s fine,” said Trump, who was in France to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
“We’ll talk but the one thing that they can’t have is they can’t have nuclear weapons,” he added.
Trump said when he came to power the Iranians were “undisputed champions of terror,” but indicated activity had slackened in recent times.
“They’re not doing that anymore. They’re doing very poorly as a nation. They’re failing as a nation,” said Trump.
Trump referred to the US sanctions against Iran which are battering the Iranian economy especially since Washington pulled out of the nuclear deal.
“I don’t want them to fail as a nation. We can turn that around very quickly, but the sanctions have been extraordinary,” he said.
On Friday, Washington slapped Tehran with new sanctions, targeting its largest petrochemical company for providing support to the Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Although EU leaders were bitterly angered by Trump’s pullout from the nuclear deal, the US president said he and Macron did not have differences on how to handle Iran.
Macron said the US shared the same four objectives on Iran — to prevent it obtaining nuclear weapons, reduce its activities in ballistics, contain Iran’s operations in the region and promote regional peace.
The French president said that in order to achieve such objectives “you need to start a negotiation” and applauded Trump’s apparent readiness to hold talks
Iran, however, has rejected the notion of reopening nuclear talks, warning that seeking to broaden an existing landmark treaty could lead to its collapse.