EU foreign ministers from Germany, France and the UK met to discuss a common approach with new administration Joe Biden on relaunching the Iran nuclear deal.
The three countries, whose ministers met in Berlin, hope Tehran can come to an agreement whereby the United States will lift its crippling sanctions in exchange for ending Iran’s breach of the agreement. 2015 limiting its nuclear activities.
German officials added that Europe would consider its response if Donald Trump, in the final days of his administration, staged a surprise attack on Iranian nuclear sites.
Biden, the president-elect of the United States, has said he wants the United States to join the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA, the official term of the agreement with Iran signed in 2015, if the Iran ends its recognized violations of the agreement, including excessive storage. of enriched uranium.
Germany, France and the UK, known as E3, last week strongly condemned Iran’s latest violations, including the use of more advanced centrifuges.
Gathered in a government villa outside Berlin, Foreign Ministers Heiko Maas of Germany, Jean-Yves Le Drian of France and Dominic Raab of the United Kingdom met to discuss “what other approach involving all JCPOA signatories, and maybe also with a new US administration might look like this, ”German officials said.
A diplomat said the goal was to return the JCPOA to its original goal – to reduce Iran’s nuclear program.
Formal talks between Team Biden and Europe cannot begin yet, but E3 has been urged to play the role of mediator between the United States and Iran, where a heated debate is ongoing over the way of seeing the intentions of the Biden administration.
Some European officials suggest that it might be easier for the EU to negotiate a deal whereby Iran quickly ends its violations of the deal and the US president lifts its economic sanctions by decree. The deal could be done temporarily with or without the United States formally returning to the JCPOA.
However, there could be obstacles to such a quick formal return to the deal if Iran demanded watertight mutual guarantees of future compliance and possible US compensation for the imposition of sanctions. The United States, for its part, could demand that Iran agree to update and expand the 2015 agreement to include Iran’s missile program and Iran’s relationship with it. its neighbors, such as Saudi Arabia.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif suggested last week that Iran may need guarantees before allowing the United States to join the former JCPOA.
Former EU chief negotiator Federica Mogherini advised the US not to try to negotiate an updated JCPOA too quickly. Speaking at a European Leadership Network event, she said: “I don’t see the possibility of moving on to new elements until the JCPOA is fully implemented by both parties. I think that’s the starting point and I think we would be wrong and under a very serious delusion if we thought to do it the other way around.
Wendy Sherman, the main US negotiator on the deal with Iran between 2011 and 2015, admitted last week: “The nuclear deal is hardly hanging by a thread” in the final months of the Donald Trump administration. “We’re in a really tough and tough place where it looks like President Trump is trying to make so many chips on the US side and Iran is trying to create so many chips on the Iran side before arrival of the new administration, ”she told me.
Sherman said she believes Biden’s team needs to start consultations with European partners very quickly. “Biden said if Iran is ready to come back into compliance the United States is ready to come back, but it’s complicated to go from here to there,” she said. “Not everything will fall back into place on day one.”
She said the window for gaining ground could be quite short because Iran is holding its own presidential elections in June. She predicted that conservative extremists would succeed in these elections, making the talks more difficult.