Britain, France and Germany should be prepared to respond to Iran’s violations of the 2015 nuclear deal, which could mean the resumption of international sanctions against Tehran, although Europe still wants to save the deal, Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas said on Monday.
Iran said last week it had resumed low-grade uranium enrichment at the Fordow underground nuclear plant, and said at the weekend it had the capacity to enrich uranium by up to 60 percent, far exceeding the level required for most civilian uses but not up to 90 percent. Percent needed to make fuel for a nuclear bomb in the biggest breach of the nuclear deal with world powers.
Iran says its irregularities stemmed from a US withdrawal from the deal last year and Washington’s resumption of sanctions that strangled its oil exports. Tehran has said it would return to the deal if Washington did so.
But the three European signatories to the 2015 agreement, aimed at narrowing any chance of Iran developing a nuclear bomb, have expressed concern that Tehran will resume uranium enrichment, fearing it could make it harder to salvage the nuclear deal.
Upon arriving for a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he would meet his British and French counterparts in Paris later in the day to discuss next steps.
“Iran will eventually have to return to its obligations. Otherwise, we will reserve our right to use all the mechanisms provided for in the agreement”, Maas told reporters.
“We are watching with increasing concern the continued enrichment of uranium and Iran has not only announced this but is moving forward with it”, Maas said.
Under the terms of the agreement, if any of the European signatories believe Iran has violated the agreement, it can initiate a process to resolve the dispute, which in a short period of no more than 65 days can escalate in the Security Council to the so-called quick return of UN sanctions against Iran.
EU diplomats say the European stance has so far been that the IAEA and its inspectors should first verify Iran’s recent statements on enrichment.
The European position is crucial because after US President Donald Trump announced his withdrawal from the deal, which was signed before the start of his term, it remains the signatories Russia and China, allies of Iran and neither of them is expected to take such a step.