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EU Countries Meet To Reduce Tensions With Iran

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, (from left) Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, French President Emmanuel Macron, and his wife, Brigitte Macron, attend the traditional Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris on July 14.


The remaining parties to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal don't consider Tehran's breaches as "significant non-compliance" and haven't signaled any intention to trigger the accord's dispute mechanism "for the time being," the European Union's foreign policy chief said on July 15.

"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," Federica Mogherini said after an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels.

The meeting of the 28 EU foreign ministers discussed possible ways to help reduce tensions between Iran and the United States and convince Iran to remain committed to the nuclear deal despite the U.S. pullout and the reimposition of crippling sanctions.

The ministers insisted that recent Iranian actions surpassing uranium enrichment thresholds set by the nuclear accord did not necessarily condemn the whole agreement.

"The deviations are not significant enough to think that Iran has definitively broken the agreement," said Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell.

During the meeting, the bloc's foreign ministers were also expected to seek to drum up further support for the EU's barter-type system to trade with Tehran and get around possible U.S. sanctions.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said there was still time to save the landmark deal. Hunt added that although Washington is Britain's closest ally, London disagrees on how to handle the Iran crisis.

"Iran is still a good year away from developing a nuclear bomb. There is still some small but closing window to keep the deal alive," Hunt told reporters on arrival for the meeting.

Ahead of the meeting, Iran's president reiterated that his nation is ready to negotiate with the United States if Washington ends economic sanctions, while the Foreign Ministry in Tehran urged the European parties to the agreement "to take practical, effective and responsible decisions" to save it.

"We stress that the continued voluntary and goodwill based actions by the Islamic Republic of Iran are rooted in the principle of reciprocity of rights and duties" in the nuclear deal, the ministry said in a July 15 statement.

And Iran's atomic energy agency warned it could reverse its nuclear program to the pre-2015 deal status.

"If the Europeans and the Americans don't want to carry out their duties... we will decrease our commitments and... reverse the conditions to four years ago," agency spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi was quoted by IRNA state news agency.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dismissed Rohani's proposal, telling the Washington Post it was "the same offer that he offered to John F. Kerry and Barack Obama," referring to the former U.S. secretary of state and president.

U.S.-Iranian tensions have worsened since U.S. President Donald Trump decided last year to abandon the nuclear accord under which Iran agreed to curtail its sensitive nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief.

Tehran has in the past days taken steps to enrich uranium beyond the limits imposed by the nuclear agreement to pressure European parties of the deal to help it bypass U.S. sanctions and benefit from the deal economically.

Britain, France, and Germany, who have remained a part of the nuclear deal -- as have Russia and China -- on July 14 called on "all stakeholders to pause and consider the possible consequences of their actions."

The joint statement came as French President Emmanuel Macron met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and senior British cabinet minister David Lidington during the Bastille Day parade in Paris.

"We believe the time has come to act responsibly and seek a path to stop the escalation of tensions and resume dialogue," the statement said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized EU's effort to salvage the Iran deal, saying on July 15 that some leaders "won't wake up until Iranian nuclear missiles fall on Europe."

Netanyahu, a vocal critic of the iran nuclear deal, has accused Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran denies the accusation and insists its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes.

The United States said earlier this month it was considering sanctioning Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, a move some critics said would be a sign Washington was not interested in dialogue.

On July 14, U.S. officials said they had given Zarif a U.S. visa to attend a UN meeting this week. Iran's mission to the United Nations said he had arrived in New York late on July 14.

Pompeo told the Washington Post that he granted a visa to Zarif to visit New York primarily to meet U.S. obligations to the United Nations.

"U.S. diplomats don't roam around Tehran, so we don't see any reason for Iranian diplomats to roam freely around New York City, either," Pompeo said.

"It's absolutely appropriate that we provide Foreign Minister Zarif and his delegation with all the rights that they are due under the UN headquarters agreement, and nothing more than that," he added.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, and the Washington Post