EU scrambles to preserve Iran nuclear deal as Rouhani warns of exit

EU scrambles to preserve Iran nuclear deal as Rouhani warns of exit

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EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini at a 2015 meeting during the negotiations for an Iranian nuclear deal. Courtesy: EC Audiovisual Service / Alain Grosclaude
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini at a 2015 meeting during the negotiations for an Iranian nuclear deal. (Courtesy: Alain Grosclaude/EC Audiovisual Service)

Iran's president told European countries on Thursday that they have 60 days to reinstate Iranian access to global markets.

UNITED NATIONS – The European signatories of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal rushed to protect the agreement Thursday, urging Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to reconsider the previous day’s threat to restart uranium enrichment within 60 days unless Iranian goods are welcomed back into global markets.

In a joint statement, the foreign ministers of the E.U., Germany, France and the U.K. urged “Iran to continue to implement its commitments under the [nuclear deal] in full” and said they would judge Iran’s compliance through physical inspections, not through political ultimatums.

European countries originally hoped to insulate Iran from a renewed U.S. sanctions push, but that has proven challenging in the face of mounting diplomatic pressure from Washington. One high-profile effort to protect Iranian trade using a European financial clearing house to keep Europeans and Iranians from directly doing business with each other remains a work in progress and is limited to humanitarian purchases.

Last month the U.S. announced it would no longer grant waivers to countries allowing them to buy Iranian oil – Iran’s top commodity – and new trade data shows European imports of Iranian goods are down 93% since this time last year, despite European promises to keep that trade steady.

As for what comes next, President Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday that he hoped American pressure would push Iran back to the negotiating table to reach a bigger and better version of the 2015 nuclear agreement.

“What they should be doing is calling me up, sitting down. We can make a deal, a fair deal, we just don’t want them to have nuclear weapons – not too much to ask. And we would help put them back into good shape.”

Iran, in turn, has said the only thing it’s open to negotiating is its return to the global oil trade and the world of international finance.

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