The remaining parties to the Iran nuclear deal do not see Tehran's breaches as significant non-compliance and have not indicated any intent to trigger the accord's dispute mechanism, the European Union's foreign policy chief said on Monday.
"For the time being, none of the parties to the agreement has signalled their intention to invoke this article, which means that none of them for the moment, for the time being with the current data we have had in particular from the IAEA, that the non-compliance is considered to be significant non-compliance," Federica Mogherini told a news conference after an EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels.
"We note that technically all the steps that have been taken — and that we regret have been taken — are reversible. So we hope and we invite Iran to reverse the steps," Mogherini said.
"The deviations are not significant enough to think that Iran has definitively broken the agreement," said Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell, who is in line to succeed Mogherini this fall.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the EU's response Iran's breaches of its nuclear limitations, saying it recalled failed diplomacy with Nazi Germany ahead of World War Two.
"(It) reminds me of the European appeasement of the 1930s," Netanyahu said in a video statement. "It seems there are those in Europe who will not wake up until Iranian nuclear missiles land on European soil. But then it will be too late, of course."
"Then, too, there were those who stuck their head in the sand and did not see the approaching danger," said Netanyahu, who has often cast Iran's nuclear projects as a mortal menace to Israel and the wider world. Iran denies seeking a nuclear bomb.
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"It seems there are those in Europe who will not wake up until Iranian nuclear missiles land on European soil. But then it will be too late, of course," Netanyahu said.
Israel has predicted that, should European powers join Washington in reimposing sanctions on Tehran, that could prompt the Iranians to enter talks on a more limiting nuclear accord.
Alluding to Israel's long-standing if veiled threat of a last-resort war against its arch-foe, Netanyahu said: "In any event, we will continue to do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran getting nuclear weaponry."
French President Emmanuel Macron said he would speak to Iranian President Hassan Rohani, Russia's Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump this week as part of a French initiative to prevent an escalation of tensions in the Middle East.
"The momentum we built over the last few weeks has, I think, prevented the worst from happening and overreactions on the Iranian side," Macron told a joint press conference with his Serbian counterpart.
"In these difficult conditions, we will continue our mediation and negotiation work," he added.
Macron also said he had yet to receive any "valid clarification" from Iranian authorities over the detention in Iran of Franco-Iranian dual national Fariba Adelkhah.
Under the terms of the deal, if any party believes another is not upholding their commitments they can refer the issue to a Joint Commission, whose members are Iran, Russia, China, the three European powers, and the European Union.
This begins a process that can eventually end with the restoration of global, United Nations sanctions on Iran. Mogherini said a joint commission meeting was possible, although when and at what level had yet to be decided.
Speaking after an EU foreign ministers meeting that was largely focused on Iran, Mogherini played down those prospects, suggesting that for now the bloc would focus on diplomatic efforts to defuse the crisis.
"The deal is not in good health, but it's still alive," Mogherini said. "We hope and we invite Iran to reverse these steps and go back to full compliance with the agreement," she said, pointing out that they were all reversible.
There were no formal conclusions on what action should next be taken. But by appearing to suggest that Iran's non-compliance was not significant, it could anger the United States, which last week warned it would add further sanctions on Iran over its breaches.
The crisis mushroomed after U.S. President Trump decided last year to abandon the deal, saying it was flawed to Iran's advantage, and reimposed a panoply of U.S. sanctions to force Iran to agree stricter limits on its nuclear programme and measures to curb its ballistic missile and regional activities.
Iran curtailed its program to enrich uranium - widely seen as a disguised bid to develop nuclear weapons capacity, which Tehran denies, in return for relief from economic sanctions crippling its economy.
Mogherini also said the shareholders of a barter-based trade conduit with Iran that now includes 10 EU members were considering whether to include oil, something that until now has been ruled out given the threat of U.S. sanctions.
"Even if I think this is the most dramatic and difficult time, I also think that today everybody realizes that not having the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal) in place anymore would be a terrible option for everybody," Mogherini said.
European Union nations were throwing their diplomatic weight behind the unraveling Iran nuclear deal on Monday, trying to rescue the pact from collapsing under U.S. pressure.
The EU currently has few direct measures for offsetting U.S. economic sanctions against Tehran that have crippled the country’s economy, and the bloc faces U.S. threats to target any EU companies that attempt to trade with Iran. Nevertheless, EU foreign ministers insisted that recent Iranian actions surpassing uranium enrichment thresholds set by the 2015 deal did not necessarily condemn the whole agreement.
“The deviations are not significant enough to think that Iran has definitively broken the agreement,” Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said of Iran’s recent moves to go beyond the enrichment limits.
Noting that Iran was “still a good year away” from potentially developing a nuclear bomb, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said there was still a “small window to keep the deal alive.”
Even if Britain, France, Germany and the rest of the EU held out a helping hand to Iran, the diplomatic puzzle was made more difficult Monday when France’s foreign ministry said a researcher with dual French-Iranian nationality had been arrested in Iran.
It said the French government was seeking information about Fariba Adelkhah and consular access to her “without delay” but added there has been “no satisfactory response to its demands as of today.”
Iranian opposition websites based abroad have said Abdelkhah disappeared in June.
And while the EU nations were looking to deescalate tensions in the Persian Gulf region, they also put the blame on the Trump administration for quitting the deal last year, imposing sanctions and trying to keep European nations from trading with Iran.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that Iran’s recent moves to surpass mutually agreed limits from the deal were only “a bad reaction following a bad decision — which was the U.S. decision to withdraw from the accord and put sanctions into place.”
China, another signatory to the global agreement, said that U.S. pressure was the root cause of recent developments and called on the Trump administration to step in and fix the diplomatic quagmire.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said it was “better for the one who made the trouble to fix it.”
Facing economic hardship, Iran had called on the other parties to the agreement — Germany, France, Britain, China, Russia and the EU — to come up with enough economic incentives to effectively offset the U.S. sanctions.
While the Europeans were still hoping to find an amicable solution, the United States instead called on them to turn their backs on Iran.
Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the EU, told the BBC that “our European friends should join the U.S. in unequivocally condemning Iran’s actions with respect to their malign activities, not just in the Strait of Hormuz but throughout the world.”
But EU foreign ministers first and foremost want to get Iran to respect the terms of the deal again. At their regular monthly meeting, the EU foreign ministers sought to drum up further support for the bloc’s proposed barter-type system to trade with Tehran and get around possible U.S. sanctions. Ten nations are already on board with the idea, and Borrell said Spain was among them.
Tehran said Sunday it was ready to negotiate with the United States if Washington lifts the economic sanctions.
Rohani’s official website quoted him as saying, “The moment you stop sanctions and bullying, we are ready to negotiate.”