Mon, 19 Aug 2019

EU foreign ministers are looking into ways to help reduce tensions between Iran and the United States and convince Iran to remain committed to the 2015 nuclear deal despite the U.S. pullout and the reimposition of crippling sanctions.

During their meeting in Brussels on July 15, the bloc's foreign ministers will also 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.

Iranian President Hassan Rohani (file photo)

President Hassan Rohani said in a televised speech on July 14 that Tehran will be ready to talk with the Trump administration when it stops its "sanctions and bullying.'

However, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dismissed Rohani's proposal, telling The Washington Post that 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.

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.

Infographic: Uranium Enrichment: How Does It Work?

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

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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