Iran's top nuclear negotiator Araqchi and EEAS Schmid attend a meeting in Vienna
Iran's top nuclear negotiator Araqchi and EEAS Schmid attend a meeting in Vienna, Sep. 1, 2020.

A European Union official leading talks among Iran and a group of five world powers Tuesday said the participants are committed to keeping alive the 2015 nuclear deal that restricted Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. 

Helga Schmid tweeted after the meeting in Vienna that “participants are united in resolve to preserve the #IranDeal and find a way to ensure full implementation of the agreement despite current challenges.”

“All participants reaffirmed the importance of preserving the agreement recalling that it is a key element of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture, as endorsed by United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231,” Schmid said in a later statement. 

The deal came under stress last year when Iran announced would take steps to walk away from its commitments, complaining it was not getting the promised economic relief after the United States imposed fresh sanctions. 

Those sanctions came after the Trump administration withdrew from the agreement in 2018, arguing it did too little to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons while giving the country too much in sanctions relief. 

Iran has denied it worked to build nuclear arms, and says it is able and prepared to reverse the actions it has taken to back away from the deal. Tehran has surpassed limits on the amount of enriched uranium it can hold at one time as well as the level to which it is allowed to enrich the material and has installed more advanced centrifuges. 

Representatives from Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany all took part in Tuesday’s talks, the latest in their efforts to salvage the agreement.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator Araqchi and EEAS Schmid attend a meeting in Vienna, Sep. 1, 2020.

Speaking with reporters after the meeting, Chinese representative Fu Cong called on Iran to return to full compliance with its requirements, but also said “the economic benefit that is due to Iran needs to be provided.” 

The U.N. Security Council resolution that enshrined the nuclear agreement includes mechanisms for participants to address non-compliance, and last month the United States sought to reinstate U.N. sanctions based on Iran’s violations of its requirements. 

The other signatories have rejected the U.S. move, something they reaffirmed at Tuesday’s talks. 

Schmid’s statement said that because the United States announced it was halting its participation in the nuclear deal and had not participated in any related activities since that time in May 2018, all of the remaining signatories agree it “therefore could not be considered as a participant state,” and thus “cannot initiate the process of reinstating U.N. sanctions.” 

The United States has argued that because it was an original member of the agreement, it retains the right to seek the snapback sanctions. 

The representatives at Tuesday’s talks also welcomed Iran’s decision last week to allow the U.N. atomic energy agency to inspect two sites where Iran is suspected of having stored or used undeclared nuclear material in the early 2000s.