September 01, 2018 11:42
News ID: 2725

(Persia Digest) - Jonathan Tirone writes in Bloomberg that as Europe’s top diplomatic officials convened in Vienna to discuss how to preserve the Iran nuclear accord, international atomic inspectors said the the Islamic Republic continued to abide by the landmark agreement abandoned by the U.S.

Iran is still allowing intrusive International Atomic Energy Agency inspections while keeping its nuclear capacity and material below thresholds allowed under the July 2015 deal, inspectors wrote Thursday in a six-page restricted report seen by Bloomberg News. Publication of the report coincides with European Union consultations about the deal, which was jettisoned by President Donald Trump in May.

The IAEA conducted snap inspections “to all the sites and locations in Iran which it needed to visit,” read the report, which will be released when the IAEA’s board meets in September. “The agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material.”

The U.S. decision to roll back the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between Iran and world powers has raised pressure on EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who helped seal negotiations over the agreement and still coordinates its dispute-resolution mechanism. Top diplomats from France and Germany have become increasingly vocal in calling for the EU to adopt policies to sidestep U.S. sanctions threats.

“Europe is doing the right things but it’s doing it very slowly,” said Richard Dalton, the U.K.’s former Ambassador to Iran who’s now the President of the British Iranian Chamber of Commerce. European banks are “over implementing” sanctions to protect U.S. market access, according to Dalton, who urged EU officials to focus on protecting allowable agricultural and medical exports to Iran.

While U.S. officials have conceded Iran continues to meet its nuclear obligations under the July 2015 deal signed in the Austrian capital -- which capped the capacity and production of material that could be used in weapons in return for sanctions relief -- they accuse Tehran’s government of meddling in Middle Eastern conflicts from Syria to Yemen.

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“When I came into here, it was a question of when would they take over the Middle East,” Trump said Thursday in an Oval Office interview with Bloomberg News. “Now it’s a question of will they survive. It’s a big difference in 1 1/2 years.”

Even modest EU attempts to maintain relations with Iran have drawn U.S. rebuke. An 18 million-euro ($21 million) EU package to promote trade with Iranian small businesses “sends the wrong message” by supporting the Islamic Republic’s government, the State Department said last week.

“There is no problem with continuing relations and negotiations with Europe, but hope should be abandoned regarding matters such as the nuclear deal,” Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a meeting with President Hassan Rouhani and members of his cabinet, according to the leader’s website.

The EU meeting in Vienna comes at a complicated time for the 28-member bloc, with member states busy preparing for the U.K.’s exit from the EU, autocratic leaders in eastern Europe pushing the bounds of the rule of law and a clash heating up with Italy over migration and spending. The foreign ministers will have a busy two days in the Austrian capital, where they are also expected to discuss the situation in North Korea, trans-Atlantic relations and the EU’s possible enlargement in southeastern Europe.

But despite the headwinds, the EU is still seeking ways to preserve the nuclear agreement.

“We believe that addressing regional disagreements with Iran can be done in a more effective manner if we maintain the nuclear deal in place,” Mogherini told reporters in Vienna at the start of the meeting.

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