Iran nuclear deal in doubt as world powers fall short on Tehran’s demands
The Iran nuclear deal looked in doubt on Friday as European powers failed to convince Tehran that they would be able to fully compensate for economic losses caused by the US’s exit.
The signatories to the landmark accord met for the first time since Donald Trump, the US president, withdrew in May to discuss how they could salvage the deal in the face of a reimposition of US sanctions.
The 2015 deal saw the lifting of sanctions on the Islamic Republic in return for curbs on its nuclear programme verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Washington has since told allies they must stop buying the OPEC producer’s oil from November 4 or face financial consequences.
The other signatories — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — have vowed to stay in the accord but appear powerless to stop their companies pulling out of Iran for fear of US penalties.
Since Mr Trump’s announcement, Iran’s currency has plummeted and prices have risen dramatically, sending thousands out on the street in protest.
Germany’s foreign minister said that world powers would not be able to make up for companies leaving Iran, but warned Tehran that abandoning its nuclear deal would cause more harm to its already ailing economy.
"We will not be able to compensate for everything that arises from companies pulling out of Iran," Heiko Maas said.
The pillars of the European Union’s strategy are European Investment Bank lending – a special measure to shield EU companies from US secondary sanctions – and a Commission proposal that EU governments make direct money transfers to Iran’s central bank to avoid US penalties.
Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, told French President Emmanuel Macron in a phone call before the summit that the package fell short of their demands.
Tehran has already warned it is ready to resume uranium enrichment to 20 percent – above the level permitted in the deal – “within days” if the agreement falls apart.
The country’s all-powerful Revolutionary Guards meanwhile has also said that they may block oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz in response to US calls to ban all Iranian oil exports.
Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief who is chairing the summit, said the signatories had agreed to continue talking, including on economic measures.
European diplomats, however, privately questioned whether they could do enough to keep Tehran onboard.
"We’ve made some progress, including on safeguarding some crude (oil) sales, but it’s unlikely to meet Iranian expectations," said one senior official.