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Iran's Zarif Hails 'Constructive Meeting' With EU On Nuclear Deal

BELGIUM --Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif arrives prior to a meeting of the E-3 and Iran at the Europa building in Brussels, May 15, 2018

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif hailed as "very good and constructive" the meeting he had on May 15 in Brussels with the European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini.

Zarif was in Brussels on the final stop of a global tour aimed at rallying support for a landmark 2015 nuclear between Tehran and six world powers in the wake of Washington's withdrawal from the deal.

His hour-long meeting with Mogherini was in preparation of a wider discussion later on May 15 with the foreign ministers of three other EU partners in the landmark deal, Germany, France, and Britain.

In addition to the United States and Iran, the agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed by Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany.

U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out on May 8, claiming that Iran had violated the “spirit” of the deal by financing militant violence in the Middle East and by continuing to test ballistic missiles.

The EU hopes to convince Tehran to continue to adhere to the accord.

Zarif told the media after the meeting that he believed both sides were "on the right track" to ensure that the interests of the JCPOA's "remaining participants, particularly Iran, will be preserved and guaranteed."

Earlier on May 15, Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the Iran deal with French President Emmanuel Macron by phone, the Kremlin said.

The two leaders reiterated their commitment to the Iran accord in the phone call, the Kremlin press service said in a statement.

Zarif arrived in Brussels from Russia, where he and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed to remain in "close contact" over the deal.

Lavrov and Zarif met on May 14 in Moscow -- the Iranian diplomat's second stop, after Beijing, on a tour of key capitals as Tehran deals with the fallout from Trump’s decision to pull out of the accord.

Lavrov told Zarif that all the remaining signatories of the JCPOA have "legitimate interests" in keeping the deal and that "therefore we need to defend the legitimate interests of each of us together." Zarif said that Russia had confirmed its readiness to respect the pact.

However, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, speaking on May 15 at a meeting in Moscow of the Valdai Discussion Club -- a gathering of Russian and international foreign policy experts,said it would be impossible to preserve the deal without Tehran making concessions, the Interfax news agency reported.

After his talks in Beijing on March 13, Zarif said Iran wants a “clear future design” for the accord.

“We hope that with this visit to China and other countries we will be able to construct a clear future design for the comprehensive agreement," Zarif told reporters after talks with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi.

"If the nuclear deal is to continue, the interests of the people of Iran must be assured," Zarif added.

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel acknowledged that the nuclear deal "certainly has weaknesses," but said that sticking to it was the best way forward.

Speaking at a labor union congress, Merkel said that Europe isn't "blind" to threats posed by Tehran’s activities in countries such as Syria to Israel.

"But we still think that, with the agreement, we would have better preconditions to speak with Iran about further agreements than by unilaterally canceling an agreement that was unanimously approved and endorsed in the UN Security Council," she added.

Following talks with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in London, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on May 14 that France, Britain, and Germany were "determined" to save the Iranian nuclear deal.

"The U.S. leaving an international agreement does not mean that the international agreement is null and void," Le Drian said.

Boris Johnson Meets Le Drian To Discuss Iran Deal
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Johnson said he would discuss ways to protect European companies doing business with Iran at the Brussels meeting.

Meanwhile, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had spoken to his German, French, and British counterparts in recent days to discuss cooperation over Iran.

"The Secretary underlined that the United States and our European allies share strong interests in preventing Iran from ever developing a nuclear weapon and in countering the Iranian regime's destabilizing activities in the region," spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. "He is hopeful we can continue strong cooperation."

Pompeo told Fox News on May 13 that Washington was ready to form a more wide-ranging Iran deal with its European partners “that achieves the outcomes that protect America."

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP