German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has met with his Iranian counterpart during a visit to Tehran aimed at exploring options for preserving the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
Maas held talks with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on June 10 and is expected to also meet with President Hassan Rohani during his visit.
Ahead of his trip, the German minister expressed hope that the talks will help both sides find "constructive ways" to preserve the Iran nuclear agreement, while Zarif said he wanted to know "what exactly the partners have achieved to rescue" the accord.
The Western European signatories to the nuclear pact -- France, Britain, and Germany -- have been trying to salvage it after the United States’ withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran’s economy.
U.S. President Donald Trump argued that the terms of the agreement were not tough enough to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and did not address the country's ballistic-missile program or its role in conflicts around the Middle East.
The European signatories of the deal share the same concerns as Washington over Iran’s ballistic-missile development and regional activities. Iran denies it supports insurgent activity and says its nuclear program has been strictly for civilian energy purposes.
Last month, Tehran announced it was suspending several commitments under the nuclear deal, and threatened to step up uranium enrichment if European countries did not act to protect it from the effects of the U.S. sanctions.
In Tehran, Maas said that " there are economic advantages that were promised to Iran and that are difficult to realize without the Americans." "But I think there are also political and strategic interests in maintaining this agreement and thus the dialogue with Europe.
That must also be recognized in Tehran," he added. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi on June 10 criticized the European signatories of the deal, saying: "So far, we have not seen practical and tangible steps from the Europeans to guarantee Iran's interests.”
Maas called Iran's ballistic missile program problematic during a visit to the United Arab Emirates on June 9. In response, Musavi said that European officials “are not in a position to question Iran's issues beyond the nuclear deal.”
Tensions between Tehran and Washington and its allies in the Persian Gulf have flared up in recent weeks, with the United States beefing up its military presence in the Middle East, citing "imminent threats" from Iran.
Tehran has rejected the U.S. allegation. In Vienna, the head of the UN's nuclear watchdog said on June 10 that it was "worried about increasing tensions" over Iran's nuclear program.
"I... hope that ways can be found to reduce current tensions through dialogue," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Yukiya Amano said as he opened a meeting of the agency's board of governors.