European powers doubt Iran’s sincerity on nuclear deal

European powers said they have “serious doubts” about Iran’s commitment to a new nuclear agreement after negotiations stretching almost 18 months. 

The governments of France, Germany and the UK issued a joint statement on Saturday addressing the latest demands from the Islamic Republic. 

“In light of Iran’s failure to conclude the agreement on the table, we will consult with our international partners on how best to deal with Iran’s continued nuclear escalation,” the European governments said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency is set to have a week-long board of directors’ meeting at its Vienna headquarters from Monday, with the Iran deal a major talking point.

The IAEA, the United Nations’ nuclear body, said last Wednesday that Iran had increased its stockpile of enriched uranium during the previous three months.

At the time, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said he was “increasingly concerned that Iran has not engaged with the agency on the outstanding safeguards issues. There has been no progress toward resolving them.”

Talks to rein in Tehran’s nuclear activities in exchange for easing sanctions, including those on oil exports, have been on a knife edge since European negotiators proposed a final 25-page draft agreement following almost a year and a half of negotiations.

After signals that a return to the 2015 accord could be imminent, sides are now resigned to — at best — more delays, dragging out talks, and preventing Iran from ramping up its sales of crude.

The nuclear deal unraveled after then-President Donald Trump withdrew the US in 2018 and reimposed sanctions. In response, Iranian officials expanded the country’s nuclear program.

The co-ordinator of the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPoA, “made additional changes that pushed us to the limits of our flexibility,” the UK, Germany and France said Saturday. 

“Unfortunately, Iran chose not to seize this critical diplomatic opportunity. Instead, Iran continues to escalate its nuclear program far beyond what could plausibly be justified on civilian grounds.” 

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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