Mogherini: Keeping Iran nuclear deal alive 'is not easy'

The EU remains tight-lipped about its potential response to Iran's threatened uranium stockpiling.

    EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini said Iran was still in compliance with the nuclear deal [Jjulien Warnand/EPA]
    EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini said Iran was still in compliance with the nuclear deal [Jjulien Warnand/EPA]

    The European Union says it will consider Iran to be complying with its obligations under a multinational nuclear deal until scientific evidence emerges that it has breached its commitments.

    EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters on Monday that the assessments of the bloc's leaders were based on the technical reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) into the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA).

    "As of today, Iran is still compliant," said Mogherini. "And we still strongly hope, encourage and expect Iran to fulfil its commitments under the JCPOA."

    Earlier on Monday, officials in Tehran had said Iran would exceed the internationally agreed limit of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium within days.

    "Mogherini is not giving too much away at the moment, not revealing too much in the way of specifics, or what the EU is doing behind closed doors," said Al Jazeera's Rory Challands, reporting from London.

    "Iran wants to put pressure on the EU to do what it has said it will do - to protect the Iranian economy from US sanctions - and this sort of ratcheting up of pressure demands some kind of reaction from the EU. But Mogherini is not being candid about what sort of reaction that will be."

    Tehran said it would reduce compliance with some elements of the nuclear agreement in May, a year after the United States unilaterally withdrew from the deal. Under it, Iran had agreed to limit its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.

    European powers have been working to create a workaround, building a financial vehicle and payment system - known as INSTEX - to circumvent US sanctions. It will be ready "soon", Germany's foreign minister said last week.

    "Our objective is to keep the nuclear deal in place," Mogherini told reporters on Monday. "It is not easy, and we have made no secret of that."

    Speaking after Monday's meeting of European foreign ministers in Luxembourg, Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Berlin would not accept "a unilateral reduction of obligations".

    "We have already said in the past that we will not accept less for less. It is up to Iran to stick to its obligations," Maas said.

    A spokesman for the British government agreed, saying the European signatories to the deal had "consistently made clear that there can be no reduction in compliance".

    Landmark deal

    Iran struck the nuclear deal in 2015 with the US, France, Germany, the UK, Russia and China. 

    Iran agreed to limit its enrichment of uranium under the watch of UN inspectors in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. International companies, including Airbus and Boeing, rushed to do deals with Iran,

    US President Donald Trump, who campaigned on a promise of tearing up the deal, withdrew Washington from the accord in May 2018. The unilateral move halted promised international business deals and dealt a heavy blow to Iran's already anaemic economy. In the time since, the Trump administration has said any country that imports Iranian crude will face US sanctions.

    Under the terms of the deal, Iran can keep a stockpile of no more than 300kg of low-enriched uranium, compared with the 10,000kg of higher-enriched uranium it once had. Currently, the accord limits Iran to enriching uranium to 3.67 percent, which can fuel a commercial nuclear power plant. Weapons-grade uranium needs to be enriched to around 90 percent. However, once a country enriches uranium to around 20 percent, scientists say the time needed to reach 90 percent is halved. 

    "We will go further from that ceiling, not only that but we will also increase production drastically," Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said on Monday from his country's Arak nuclear plant.

     "After we pass the limit of 300kg, the pace and the speed of enriched uranium production at the lower rate will also increase." 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies