By RFE/RL The United States and European countries are "a long way from a compromise" on a new Iran nuclear deal, Germany's top diplomat said as Iran's supreme leader called on European countries to reject U.S. demands for a tougher deal with Iran.
"We are still a long way from a compromise, we take two completely different paths," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters in Washington after a 75-minute meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo late on May 23.
Pompeo had warned on May 21 that the United States would hit Iran with the "strongest sanctions in history" unless it agrees to stronger curbs on its nuclear activities and an end to its ballistic missile program as well as its military interventions in Syria and Yemen.
But Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei earlier in the day strongly rejected the U.S. demands and said the three European countries that signed the 2015 nuclear agreement should refuse to negotiate with Washington on a new deal.
Khamenei, in a statement on his website, said Britain, France, and Germany must pledge they will not seek negotiations on Iran's ballistic missile program or on its regional activities, both of which were specifically excluded from the 2015 deal, which lifted sanctions against Iran in exchange for curbs on some of its nuclear activities. Khamenei said the European countries should "stand up" against renewed sanctions the United States imposed after President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal earlier this month.
He warned that if the Europeans do not meet these demands, Iran would resume its enrichment of uranium, which was shelved under the deal to minimize the risk of Tehran developing nuclear weapons.
Also in exchange for Iran continuing to honor the deal, Khamenei said the European nations should guarantee that they will not only continue to buy Iranian oil but will try to block U.S. plans to curb Iranian oil sales through renewed sanctions.
In all, Khamenei's statement laid down seven conditions for Iran to continue adhering to the nuclear deal. "European banks should safeguard trade with the Islamic Republic.
We do not want to start a fight with these three countries, but we don't trust them either,” he said. In his meeting with Pompeo, Maas said he stressed the "great solidarity" of the deal's European signatories and the European Union in their collective decision to continue following the agreement.
“Europe is very, very united in its position on the nuclear accord with Iran, and that will not change," Maas said. Meanwhile, France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned that the U.S. move to reimpose sanctions while demanding a tougher, broader deal with Iran risks destabilizing the Middle East.
"The sanctions to be launched against Iran will not foster dialogue. On the contrary, they will boost the importance and power of Iran's conservatives and weaken President [Hassan] Rohani, who wanted to negotiate," Le Drian told France Inter radio.
"Ultimately, this stance is likely to put the region in further danger than it is today," he said. Le Drian said Paris will continue to implement the 2015 deal even though it does agree with Washington that Iran's missile activity and regional ambitions need to be curbed.
Khamenei said Iran will not agree again to negotiate with the United States after it so easily abandonned the prior deal. "The Islamic Republic cannot deal with America. Why? Because America is not loyal to its commitments," Khamenei said. "Iran was committed to the deal. They have no excuse.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly verified Iran’s commitment. But you see they easily cancel this international agreement." Khamenei suggested Iran will simply ignore the U.S. demands and wait until Trump is eventually replaced with a new U.S. president.
"The current U.S. president will meet the same fate as his predecessors...and will vanish from history," he said.