IRAN WILL DECIDE SOON OVER 2015 NUCLEAR DEAL – Europeans must guarantee their stance

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Syrian troops are liberating most of Syria’s territory
Syrian troops are liberating most of Syria’s territory

TOP nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi has said Iran will decide soon whether to stay in the 2015 nuclear deal as he urged the Europeans to guarantee Tehran’s interests under the accord after the US withdrawal. Araqchi arrived in Vienna on Friday to meet his counterparts from Europe to discuss the future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) after President Donald Trump’s dramatic announcement to leave it.

‘We are yet to decide whether we will stay in the JCPOA or leave it and this depends on how the other members can compensate one member’s exit,’ the Fars news agency quoted Araqchi as saying.

‘The Europeans must specifically tell us how they can guarantee Iran’s interests in the deal in the absence of the US and its re-imposition of sanctions,’ he added. Since Trump’s May 8 decision to quit the JCPOA, other signatories of the deal – the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany – have had a tough task on their hands to preserve it.

Araqchi said, ‘The US is no longer viewed by us and other signatories as a member of the JCPOA and we will see in our Joint Commission meetings how the JCPOA can survive without America.’ He said Iran and the Europeans had already discussed the sanctions and their effects on different sectors, including energy, the automotive industry, transportation, aviation, banking and insurance.

Another Iranian official said Iran expects European powers to give it a package of economic measures by the end of the month to compensate Washington’s withdrawal. ‘We expect the package to be given to us by the end of May,’ he said, adding, ‘I’m sorry to say that we haven’t seen the Plan B yet. The Plan B has just started to be figured out.’ The official said the deal has been put ‘in intensive care’ by Washington’s dramatic withdrawal. ‘We have now a deal which is in the intensive care unit; it’s dying.’

While Russia and China have expressed unshakable support for the deal, the other three European governments have been torn between pleasing the US as a key ally and protecting their own interests in the profitable Iranian markets. Trump has said he would reinstate all nuclear-related sanctions that were lifted under the deal, vowing to punish companies and countries that violate those and the harsher bans that will follow them shortly.

Iran says it will hold to its end of the deal for now but has doubts whether the Europeans can provide the solid guarantees that it has requested to salvage it. ‘I am personally maybe not optimistic but … I am trying my best to come to a conclusion,’ the Iranian official said.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said on Thursday that Iran does not seek a confrontation with Europe, but the UK, France and Germany have shown in the past that they would follow the US whenever it comes to sensitive issues. The leader also set out conditions for Tehran to stay in the nuclear deal with world powers, including steps by European banks to safeguard trade with Tehran after the US withdrawal from the agreement.

He said that US enmity with Iran is deep but all American plots against the country have failed since the victory of the Islamic Revolution. Ayatollah Khamenei added that European powers must protect Iranian oil sales from US pressure and continue buying Iranian crude, and must also promise they would not seek new negotiations on Iran’s missile programme and regional activities.

The Iranian official said on Friday: ‘We don’t have enough time. We expect today to take a unified position against the withdrawal of the United States and compensate for the US absence in the deal.

‘If not, we would go for a ministerial (meeting) and after that if Iran is still not satisfied we would take the decision.’

The US Treasury announced more sanctions on Thursday on several Iranian and Turkish companies and a number of aircraft in a move targeting four Iranian airlines. That came even as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) once again confirmed Iran’s commitment to the JCPOA in a new report on Thursday. The report called on Iran to remain compliant with the JCPOA and even go beyond its legal obligations in order to boost international confidence in Tehran’s commitments.

• The Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman says Ankara will take every initiative to protect its firms against new US sanctions. Hami Aksoy made the comments at a news conference on Friday, a day after the United States imposed new sanctions against nine Iranian and Turkish individuals and companies as well as a number of aircraft providing goods and services to four Iranian airlines in a move aimed at targeting Iranian airlines.

The Treasury Department claimed in a statement that Caspian Airlines and Pouya Air had ferried weapons, troops and money to Iran’s allies in Syria and Lebanon and threatened to levy sanctions against the entities which grant landing rights and provide services to their aircraft. The latest anti-Iran sanctions came after US President Donald Trump announced on May 8 that Washington was walking away from the nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was reached between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, Britain, France, Russia and China – plus Germany.

Trump also said he would reinstate US nuclear sanctions on Iran and impose ‘the highest level’ of economic bans on the Islamic Republic. Iran has said it would remain in the JCPOA for now, pending negotiations with the other signatories in the coming weeks before making a final decision on its future role in the agreement. Tehran wants the Europeans to give it clear-cut guarantees about fulfilling their obligations if it remains in the accord.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that US enmity toward Iran is deep but all American plots against the country have failed since the victory of the Islamic Revolution. During a meeting with heads of the three branches of the Iranian government as well as officials in Tehran, Ayatollah Khamenei referred to what he called ‘the fundamental, deep and constant enmity’ of the United States toward the Islamic Republic and said Iran would definitely defeat the US if Iranian officials fulfil their duty.

Elsewhere, the Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that his country had fulfilled all requirements to obtain Lockheed Martin’s F-35 jets from the United States. Aksoy added that Ankara expected all sides to carry out their responsibilities. Turkey intends to purchase more than 100 F-35 jet fighters, and has had talks with US officials about the likely purchase of Patriot anti-air missiles as well.

A US Senate committee on Thursday passed its version of the $716 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that bars the sale of advanced F-35 warplanes to NATO partner Turkey, faulting Ankara for its purchase of an air defence system from Russia. The bill removed Turkey from the F-35 programme over its S-400 purchase from Russia as well as imprisonment of an American Christian pastor in Turkey on spying and terrorism charges.

The US House of Representatives passed its version of the bill earlier on Thursday, but the Senate must also pass its own version of the bill before engaging to reconcile the two versions to come up with a final compromise legislation for a vote in both houses of Congress later this year.

Turkey has said the S-400 system would boost its defence capabilities in the face of threats from Kurdish and Daesh-linked militants as well as conflicts across its borders in neighbouring Syria and Iraq. Ankara has also vowed to take retaliatory measures in case Washington enacts a law blocking weapons sales to Turkey, a key partner in the US-led NATO military alliance.