EU ministers close ranks to support Iran deal

EU ministers close ranks to support Iran deal

EU ministers close ranks to support Iran deal

Europe is set to give fresh backing to the Iran nuclear deal on Oct. 16 after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to tear it up in a belligerent speech that alarmed allies across the Atlantic.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg will add their voices to a chorus of international support for the landmark 2015 accord that saw Tehran abandon its nuclear ambitions in return for the lifting of punishing sanctions.

Trump stopped short of pulling out of the deal in his much anticipated White House speech on Oct. 13, leaving that decision to U.S. lawmakers, but restated his belief the deal was letting Iran off the hook.  

A senior EU official said foreign ministers were expected to express their "full support for continued implementation" of the deal negotiated with Iran over 12 years by the U.S., Britain, France, China, Germany and Russia.    

The leaders of France, Britain and Germany delivered a clear rebuke to Trump in a joint statement on Oct. 12 which said the deal remained "in our shared national security interest" and urged U.S. lawmakers to think carefully before doing anything to undermine the agreement. U.N. inspectors have repeatedly certified that Iran is sticking to its technical requirements under the accord, but Trump insists that what he called the "fanatical regime" in Tehran was not living up to the "spirit" of the deal.  

EU officials have been lobbying members of Congress not to turn their backs on the accord, which was endorsed unanimously by the U.N. Security Council, and on Oct. 13 the bloc's top diplomat Federica Mogherini, touted as a Nobel Peace Prize candidate for her work on the deal, also delivered an angry retort to Trump. 

"To my knowledge there's not one single country in the world that can terminate a U.N. Security Council resolution that has been adopted, and adopted unanimously, and implemented, and verified," she said. 

"It is clearly not in the hands of any president of any country in the world to terminate an agreement of this sort. The president of the United States has many powers [but] not this one."     

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel warned on Oct. 16 that threats from Trump to pull out from the accord could provoke military confrontation, adding such a move could also make exacerbate the North Korea crisis.

“As Europeans together, we are very worried that the decision of the U.S. President could lead us back into military confrontation with Iran,” Gabriel told reporters ahead of a meeting with fellow European foreign ministers.

Also on Oct. 16 French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he hoped the U.S. Congress would not jeopardise the deal. 

“Following President Trump’s decision not to validate the accord, the decision doesn’t square with what we believe, what the IAEA believes, what the Germany chancellor, the British prime minister and President Macron have stated,” he said.

“We hope that Congress does not put this accord in jeopardy."

Diplomats say that European powers share some of Trump's concerns about Iran's activities not covered by the nuclear deal -- notably its ballistic missile programme and involvement in numerous Middle East conflicts including Syria.

But they say these should be dealt with in other forums and warn it would be a calamitous mistake to sacrifice the achievement of the nuclear deal.

"Renegotiation is out of the question. The accord is necessary, important and stops Iran becoming a nuclear power," one EU diplomat said.

Ditching the deal when Iran has repeatedly been certified as keeping up its end of the bargain would send a signal to other rogue regimes such as North Korea that negotiating with the international community was a waste of time, European officials warn.

European Union,