EU Triggers Iran Nuclear Deal Dispute Mechanism, Paving Way for Possible Sanctions

Foreign policy chief Josep Borrell 'left with no choice' as Tehran gradually rolls back its commitment to 2015 deal

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Hassan Rohani pray near the coffin of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani in Tehran, Iran, January 6, 2020. 
OFFICIAL PRESIDENT'S WEBSITE/

Britain, France and Germany have launched action under the Iran nuclear agreement paving the way for possible sanctions in response to Tehran’s attempts to roll back parts of the deal, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Tuesday. Iran dismissed the decision as a "passive" measure, but said it was ready to consider any constructive effort to save the accord. 

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The three countries, which signed the international agreement in 2015 along with the United States, Russia and China, informed Borrell, who supervises the pact, in a letter that they are triggering its “dispute mechanism,” ratcheting up pressure on the Islamic Republic.

The leaders of the three nations said in a statement that they've been "left with no choice, given Iran’s actions, but to register today our concerns that Iran is not meeting its commitments.''

The powers said they are referring “this matter to the Joint Commission under the Dispute Resolution Mechanism, as set out" in the nuclear deal.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement that the three European countries "could no longer leave the growing Iranian violations of the nuclear agreement unanswered."

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell talks to reporters at the European parliament in Strasbourg, January 14, 2020.
Jean-Francois Badias/AP

"Our goal is clear: we want to preserve the accord and come to a diplomatic solution within the agreement," he added. “We will tackle this together with all partners in the agreement. We call on Iran to participate constructively in the negotiation process that is now beginning.”

Borrell insisted that the move does not mean that sanctions will automatically be reimposed.

Iran dismissed the decision as a "passive" action but said it was ready to consider any constructive effort to save the accord.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran, as in the past, has complete readiness to support any (act of) goodwill and constructive effort to save this important international agreement," Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a statement on the ministry's website.

The mechanism allows two weeks for ministers to resolve any problems, although that period can be extended if all sides agree. If needed, an advisory board would have an extra 20 days to adjudicate.

The nuclear agreement is aimed at convincing Iran to stop developing atomic weapons in exchange for economic incentives. It’s been on life support since President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the United States out in 2018, triggering sanctions that have hurt Iran’s moribund economy. Since then, Tehran has gradually rolled back its commitment to the deal.

After its top general was killed in a U.S. drone attack earlier this month, Iran announced that it would no longer respect limits set on how many centrifuges it can use to enrich uranium. Tehran said the new move was a “remedial step” in line with the deal and that it could be reversed.