Brussel:The European Union is scrambling to arrange a crisis meeting with Iran after Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear agreement, as the Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said Europe had a “very limited opportunity” to save the deal.
A day after the US president broke with the landmark 2015 agreement and warned he would seek to hit European businesses that continued to trade with Tehran, the EU vowed to take steps to immunise firms from any US sanctions.
Foreign ministers aim to reassure Tehran that the nuclear deal is salvageable at a meeting currently slated for Monday in London which they are expecting their Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif to attend.
In a phone call on Wednesday between Emmanuel Macron and Rouhani, the French president stressed his willingness “to continue enforcing the Iran nuclear agreement in all respects”, the Elysée said in a statement. The statement added that Macron had “underlined the importance that Iran do the same”.
The Iranian Students’ News Agency quoted Rouhani as telling Macron: “Under the current conditions, Europe has a very limited opportunity to preserve the nuclear deal, and must, as quickly as possible, clarify its position and specify and announce its intentions with regard to its obligations.”
EU ministers hope to put forward a credible package to soothe Iranian fears about the effect of Trump’s decision on EU-Iranian trade.
The ministers recognise that Iran will only stay inside the deal if they are confident that the promised economic benefits can survive an American sanctions assault. But they were keen to stress that Trump’s move had not necessarily dealt the agreement a fatal blow.
“The deal is not dead. There is an American withdrawal from the deal but the deal is still there,” Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister, told RTL radio.
Tehran had complained in recent weeks that the EU had gone too far to appease Trump. But it appeared on Wednesday that, after the failure of its diplomatic charm offensive with Washington, Europe was going to unite to protect the deal, even if it meant putting its member states on an economic collision course with the US.
Work on the package being coordinated by the European Union is at an early stage, but the EU is being urged to warn the US it will impose countersanctions if the US attempts unjustifiably to cripple EU firms trading with Iran.
In his phone call with Rouhani, Macron also underscored the intention to have a broader discussion with all the relevant parties on the development of Iran’s nuclear programme after 2025, when key elements of the current deal expire, as well as Iran’s ballistic missile programme and wider Middle East issues.