European nations launch dispute over Iran's nuclear activity
Britain, France and Germany have launched action under the Iran nuclear agreement paving the way for possible sanctions in response to Tehran’s attempts to roll back parts of the deal, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Tuesday. The three countries informed Borrell, who supervises the pact, in a letter that they are triggering its “dispute mechanism,” ratcheting up pressure on the Islamic Republic.
France, Britain and Germany confirmed on Tuesday that they had triggered the dispute mechanism in the Iran nuclear deal given Tehran's ongoing violations, but said they were not joining the United States campaign to exert maximum pressure on Tehran.
"We do not accept the argument that Iran is entitled to reduce compliance with the JCPoA," the three countries said in a joint statement, saying they had no choice but to trigger the process that could eventually lead to U.N. sanctions.
"Instead of reversing course, Iran has chosen to further reduce compliance."
Iran took a further step back from its commitments to the 2015 pact, with six world powers, by announcing on Jan. 6 that it would scrap limits on enriching uranium, though it said it would continue cooperating with the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
"We do this in good faith with the overarching objective of preserving the JCPoA and in the sincere hope of finding a way forward to resolve the impasse through constructive diplomatic dialogue, while preserving the agreement and remaining within its framework," they said.
In a bid to keep the door open for diplomacy, the three said they were not joining the United States campaign to implement maximum pressure against Iran.
"Given recent events, it is all the more important that we do not add a nuclear proliferation crisis to the current escalation threatening the whole region," they said.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement that the three European countries "could no longer leave the growing Iranian violations of the nuclear agreement unanswered."
"Our goal is clear: we want to preserve the accord and come to a diplomatic solution within the agreement," he added. "We will tackle this together with all partners in the agreement. We call on Iran to participate constructively in the negotiation process that is now beginning."
Borrell insisted that the move does not mean that sanctions will automatically be reimposed.
The mechanism allows two weeks for ministers to resolve any problems, although that period can be extended if all sides agree. If needed, an advisory board would have an extra 20 days to adjudicate.
The nuclear agreement is aimed at convincing Iran to stop developing atomic weapons in exchange for economic incentives. It's been on life support since President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the United States out in 2018, triggering sanctions that have hurt Iran's moribund economy. Since then, Tehran has gradually rolled back its commitment to the deal.
After its top general was killed in a U.S. drone attack earlier this month, Iran announced that it would no longer respect limits set on how many centrifuges it can use to enrich uranium. Tehran said the new move was a "remedial step" in line with the deal and that it could be reversed.