The foreign ministers of France, Germany and the UK have triggered a dispute resolution mechanism over the nuclear deal with Iran - the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) - following the Middle Eastern country's further step away from its commitments. Josep Borrell, EU foreign affairs chief and coordinator of the JCPOA joint commission, said he had received today a letter from the three ministers for resolution through the mechanism, as set out in paragraph 36 of the agreement.Josep Borrell, coordinator of the JCPOA joint commission (Image: European Parliament)
Iran said on 5 January it will ignore the limit on the number of uranium enrichment centrifuges agreed under the deal, thus withdrawing from the last operational restriction imposed by the 2015 agreement. The announcement followed the US assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani and marked Tehran's fifth step in reducing its JCPOA commitments - originally agreed in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
"The aim of the mechanism is to resolve issues relating to the implementation of the agreement within the framework of the Joint Commission. In this respect I note the foreign ministers' intention 'to preserve the JCPOA in the sincere hope of finding a way forward to resolve the impasse through constructive diplomatic dialogue'," Borrell said in a statement on the EU's website. The dispute resolution mechanism "requires intensive efforts in good faith by all", he said, adding that he expects all JCPOA participants "to approach this process in that spirit".
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in an interview with BBC Breakfast today that he wants to work with the USA and the UK's other allies to replace the current agreement to stop Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon. He said the UK would continue to back the existing deal which President Donald Trump withdrew the USA from in May 2018, saying: "Let's replace it and let's replace it with the Trump deal."
"We're going to come under pressure, everybody will say, 'well you've got to get rid of this nuclear deal, the JCPOA', that's what Trump wants. My point to our American friends is, look, somehow or other we've got to stop the Iranians acquiring a nuclear weapon, that's what the JCPOA does, but if we're going to get rid of it, then we need a replacement," Johnson said.
Later, the BBC was told Johnson believed the current deal had to be made to work in a format that the USA would sign up to, and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is expected to make a statement in the House of Commons later today.
The JCPOA was signed in July 2015 by Iran and the E3/EU+3 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the USA - also referred to as the P5+1 - plus the European Union) and implemented in January 2016. Under its terms, Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment activities, eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium and limit its stockpile of low-enriched uranium over the subsequent 15 years.
On 12 January, the E3 issued a statement saying they remained committed to the JCPOA and to preserving it, and they remained "ready to engage with Iran".
In his statement today, Borrell said the JCPOA is "a significant achievement of sustained multilateral diplomacy following years of negotiations".
"In light of the ongoing dangerous escalations in the Middle East, the preservation of the JCPOA is now more important than ever," he said.
Researched and written by World Nuclear News