TEMPO.CO, Berlin - European countries said on Thursday, May 9, they wanted to preserve Iran's nuclear deal and rejected "ultimatums" from Tehran, after Iran relaxed restrictions on its nuclear program and threatened moves that might breach the 2015 international pact.
Iran's announcement on Wednesday, related to curbs on its stockpiling of nuclear materials, was in response to U.S. sanctions imposed following President Donald Trump's withdrawal of the United States from the accord with Tehran a year ago.
Iran's initial moves do not appear to violate the accord yet. But President Hassan Rouhani said that unless the world powers which signed the deal protect the country's economy from U.S. sanctions within 60 days, Iran would start enriching uranium beyond limits set in the agreement.
"We reject any ultimatums and we will assess Iran's compliance on the basis of Iran's performance regarding its nuclear-related commitments ...," read a statement issued jointly by the European Union and the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, co-signatories of the deal.
"We are determined to continue pursuing efforts to enable the continuation of legitimate trade with Iran," they said, adding that this included getting a special purpose vehicle aimed at enabling non-dollar business with Iran off the ground.
In response, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a Twitter post that EU countries should uphold their obligations in the nuclear deal with Iran and normalize economic ties despite U.S. sanctions, "instead of demanding that Iran unilaterally abide by a multilateral accord".
The nuclear deal required Iran to curb its uranium enrichment capacity to head off any pathway to developing a nuclear bomb, in return for the removal of most international sanctions. A series of more intrusive U.N. inspections under the deal have verified that Iran is meeting its commitments.
Iran has always denied that it was seeking a nuclear weapon and says it wants to abide by the nuclear deal.
The Trump administration argues that the nuclear deal was flawed because it is not permanent, does not address Iran's missile programme and does not punish Iran for what Washington considers meddling in regional countries.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo alluded to that in a statement on Thursday.
"To date, the regime’s default option has been violence, and we appeal to those in Tehran who see a path to a prosperous future through de-escalation to modify the regime's behavior," Pompeo said.
"Our restraint to this point should not be mistaken by Iran for a lack of resolve," Pompeo said.