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European Union to 'redouble efforts' to revive Iran nuclear deal

The announcement follows Iran ramping up uranium enrichment and comes in the waning days of US President Donald Trump's administration, as incoming President Joe Biden has raised the possibility of reentering the deal.
In this picture taken on December 25, 2020 a flag of the European Union can be seen fluttering outside the European commission headquarters in Brussels. (Photo by François WALSCHAERTS / AFP) (Photo by FRANCOIS WALSCHAERTS/AFP via Getty Images)

The European Union announced it will "redouble efforts" to preserve the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and return all parties to its full implementation, according to EU spokesperson Peter Stano on Tuesday. 

The announcement comes in the waning days of US President Donald Trump’s administration and as President-elect Joe Biden has raised the possibility of Washington returning to the deal.

“We are working together to achieve a situation where all participants in all parties respect the obligations set out in this agreement, that's our goal,” Stano said. “That is our effort to preserve, to maintain the agreement and also to ensure that all participants respect the obligations of this agreement.”

Iran announced on Monday it has resumed 20% uranium enrichment at its Fordow underground nuclear facility. Those levels have not been hit by the regime in at least five years and would put the country well above the 3.67% cap set in the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). 

The move prompted the European Union to declare that if Iran’s intentions are indeed true, it “will have serious implications when it comes to nuclear nonproliferation.”

“We stress that, despite this regrettable step taken by Iran, particularly with important JCPOA elements, the strict verification and transparency measures remain in place,” Stano said.

The US State Department called Iran’s decision an attempt at “extortion” that will not succeed.

“Iran enriching uranium to 20% at Fordow is a clear attempt to increase its campaign of nuclear extortion, an attempt that will continue to fail,” a State Department official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

However, Iran asserted the move complies with Paragraph 36 of the deal, which states that if any of the P5+1 countries (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States plus Germany) does not meet its commitments to the deal and if the issue has not been resolved in 35 days, the country can cease performing its commitments in part or in whole.

After announcing its resumption of 20% uranium enrichment, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted the action was “fully reversible” if other partners in the deal fully complied. Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency of its plan to increase enrichment last week. 

Despite breaching terms of the deal after Washington’s withdrawal in 2018, Iran has continued granting the International Atomic Energy Agency, the global nuclear watchdog, access to its declared nuclear facilities and has allowed inspections elsewhere.

Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and applied a “maximum pressure” campaign that saw a string of sanctions slapped against the regime. But European leaders sought to save the deal, urging Tehran to comply as Washington continued to tighten sanctions. 

Biden has said he is willing to reverse sanctions and steer the United States back into the deal if Iran returns to compliance. After returning to the deal, Biden would then pursue further negotiations to constrain Iran’s regional influence, according to Biden’s incoming national security adviser Jake Sullivan to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Sunday, and added that part of those negotiations must include Iran’s ballistic missile program.

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