BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The remaining parties to the Iran nuclear deal do not see Tehran’s breaches as significant non-compliance and have not indicated any intent to trigger the accord’s dispute mechanism, the European Union’s foreign policy chief said on Monday.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog has confirmed that Iran earlier this month violated the accord by enriching uranium to 4.5% fissile purity, above the 3.67% limit set by the 2015 deal, and exceeding limits on its stock of low-enriched uranium.
“For the time being, none of the parties to the agreement has signalled their intention to invoke this article,” Federica Mogherini told a news conference in Brussels. “(It) means that none of them for the moment, for the time being with the current data we have had in particular from the IAEA, that the non-compliance is considered to be significant non-compliance.”
Under the terms of the deal, if any party believes another is not upholding their commitments they can refer the issue to a Joint Commission, whose members are Iran, Russia, China, the three European powers, and the European Union.
This begins a process that can eventually end with the restoration of global, United Nations sanctions on Iran. Mogherini said a joint commission meeting was possible, although when and at what level had yet to be decided.
Speaking after an EU foreign ministers meeting that was largely focused on Iran, Mogherini played down those prospects, suggesting that for now the bloc would focus on diplomatic efforts to defuse the crisis.
“The deal is not in good health, but it’s still alive,” Mogherini said. “We hope and we invite Iran to reverse these steps and go back to full compliance with the agreement,” she said, pointing out that they were all reversible.
There were no formal conclusions on what action should next be taken. But by appearing to suggest that Iran’s non-compliance was not significant, it could anger the United States, which last week warned it would add further sanctions on Iran over its breaches.
The crisis mushroomed after U.S. President Donald Trump decided last year to abandon the deal, saying it was flawed to Iran’s advantage, and reimposed a panoply of U.S. sanctions to force Iran to agree stricter limits on its nuclear programme and measures to curb its ballistic missile and regional activities.
Iran curtailed its programme to enrich uranium - widely seen as a disguised bid to develop nuclear weapons capacity, which Tehran denies, in return for relief from economic sanctions crippling its economy.
Mogherini also said the shareholders of a barter-based trade conduit with Iran that now includes 10 EU members were considering whether to include oil, something that until now has been ruled out given the threat of U.S. sanctions.
“Even if I think this is the most dramatic and difficult time, I also think that today everybody realizes that not having the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal) in place anymore would be a terrible option for everybody,” Mogherini said.
Writing by John Irish; Editing by Mark Heinrich