Europe's Iran deal members to trigger dispute mechanism, reports say

  • The news comes after Tehran's series of progressive rollbacks in compliance over the last year to the multilateral 2015 agreement that was meant to keep Iran's nuclear program in check.
  • U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson also discussed the deal on Tuesday, telling the BBC that if the 2015 Iran nuclear deal does collapse, a "Trump deal" negotiated by the American president should replace it.

After more than 18 months of sticking up for the Iran nuclear deal after the U.S. administration left it in May 2018, European signatories are now reportedly triggering a dispute mechanism in the accord over Tehran's suspension of compliance.

France, Germany and the U.K. will inform the EU on Tuesday that they intend to set off the mechanism, Reuters reported citing sources. It's not yet clear what the dispute mechanism would entail, but EU diplomats told Reuters it would be aimed at saving the deal, also known as the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). The news agency stated that the mechanism can also lead to a reimposition of sanctions.

A spokesperson for the EU wasn't immediately available for comment.

The news comes after Tehran's series of progressive rollbacks in compliance over the last year to the multilateral 2015 agreement that was meant to keep Iran's nuclear program in check. Iran has pledged to return to higher levels of uranium enrichment in response to intensified U.S. sanctions, and in early January announced it was dropping all obligations to the deal in the wake of the U.S. killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.

Iranian officials noted that the country would still work with International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, and held that while compliance was suspended, the deal was not officially dead and that the rollbacks could be reversed if heavy U.S. sanctions on the country were lifted.

The sanctions have crippled Iran's economy, slashing vital oil exports and bringing inflation up to more than 40%.

European signatories to the 2015 deal in January 2019 launched INSTEX, a special purpose vehicle designed to enable trade with Iran by using currencies other than dollars, sidestepping U.S. sanctions. The mechanism has had limited success, but was a sign of Europe's determination to defy the Trump administration's efforts. Trump on Wednesday reiterated his call for the deal's remaining non-Iranian members — France, Germany, the U.K., Russia and China — to abandon it, a call they have so far resisted.

EU ministers have long threatened to re-impose sanctions or "consequences" of some sort if Iran breaks its obligations under the deal, though critics have accused them of fecklessness after the threats failed to materialize despite months of incremental deal breaches from Tehran.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson also discussed the deal on Tuesday, telling the BBC that if the 2015 Iran nuclear deal does collapse, a "Trump deal" negotiated by the American president should replace it. He reiterated his support for the JCPOA, saying that it prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon — stressing that if it isn't upheld, it must be replaced.

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