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Iranian Foreign Minister Says Future of Nuclear Deal Up To Europe

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif looks on during a meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow, Russia December 30, 2019.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif looks on during a meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow, Russia December 30, 2019.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Wednesday the future of the 2015 international deal regarding his country's nuclear program "depends on Europe," after the three European signatories accused Iran of breaking key restrictions.

Speaking at an event in India, Zarif reiterated long-standing Iranian complaints about Europe not living up to its economic promises under the deal, citing a lack of purchases of Iranian oil and the withdrawal of companies from Iran.

Zarif acknowledged that Iran has stepped back from its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but said Iran's complaints went ignored as it complied with the deal and the United States withdrew from the pact and imposed new economic sanctions.

"Our economy has suffered without any fault of Iran. Over the past two years, hundreds of billions of dollars in damages. Are they going to pay us back? If they pay us back those hundreds of billions, I'll make sure everything we have done is reversed beyond any shadow of doubt," Zarif said.

Britain, France and Germany said in a joint statement Tuesday they have upheld their responsibilities under the nuclear deal, including lifting economic sanctions against Iran and working to promote legitimate trade with the country.

They said Iran's non-compliance has left them no choice but to refer the situation to a dispute resolution process specified in the agreement.

"Iran's actions are inconsistent with the provisions of the nuclear agreement and have increasingly severe and non-reversible proliferation implications," they said.

The agreement, also signed by the United States, China and Russia, was meant to allay concerns Iran was working to build a nuclear weapon. And it put in place restrictions on Iran's nuclear program that were meant to make such work impossible. In exchange, Iran got relief from sanctions that had badly hurt its economy.

But after the United States withdrew from the deal in 2018, Iran began reducing its compliance with steps such as going above the allowed limits on the amount of enriched uranium it can stockpile, enriching to higher levels, and using more centrifuges than allowed.

Zarif on Wednesday also dismissed a suggestion by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who told the BBC that it would probably be better if what he called the "flawed" JCPOA was replaced with a new agreement negotiated by U.S. President Donald Trump.

"I had a U.S. deal and the U.S. broke it," Zarif said. "If I have a Trump deal, how long will it last? Another 10 months?"

The Iranian foreign minister said it is not in Europe's interest to "tag along" with the United States.

The Trump administration argued the nuclear deal was too generous to Iran and did not constrain what it called Iran's malign behavior in the Middle East. It has carried out what it calls a "maximum pressure" campaign to try to get Iran's leaders to alter their course.

Britain, France and Germany reiterated their "regret and concern" at the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement, and made clear in their statement Tuesday that seeking a resolution from the Joint Commission does not mean they are backing the U.S. strategy.

"Our three countries are not joining a campaign to implement maximum pressure against Iran," they said. "Our hope is to bring Iran back into full compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA."

The Joint Commission consists of one member from each of the signatories. Under the JCPOA they have 15 days to resolve a dispute. The step is the first in a series of potential resolution mechanisms, the last of which involves referring the matter to the U.N. Security Council.

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