Tensions between Iran and the European Union have reached a fever pitch over Tehran’s decision to accelerate nuclear activities in recent weeks as a counter-measure to US sanctions.
While the three European countries – UK, Germany and France – have censured Tehran over scaling back its 2015 nuclear deal obligations, Tehran accuses them of doing little to salvage the deal.
On Sunday, Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif took to social media to strongly criticize the E3 leaders for not doing enough to keep alive the nuclear deal, also known as joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA).
“E3 leaders—who rely on signature of OFAC [US’ Office of Foreign Assets Control agency] functionaries to carry out their obligations under JCPOA—have done zilch to maintain JCPOA,” the top Iranian diplomat wrote. “Remember @EmmanuelMacron’s stillborn initiative or UK non-payment of court-ordered debt?”
He further said that the historic deal clinched between Iran and the western powers in 2015 “is alive because of Iran and not E3,” tagging his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian.
In another tweet, he addressed Le Drian without naming him, accusing his country of “destabilizing” the region, and asking him to “avoid absurd nonsense about Iran”.
Zarif’s remarks were triggered by Le Drian’s interview to French Journal du Dimanche, saying Iran was “in the process of acquiring weapons” while calling on Tehran and Washington’s return to 2015 deal.
The French diplomat further said that “tough discussions” would be required over Iran's ballistic missile program and “destabilization” activities in the region.
Earlier, on Saturday, the three European powers in a statement had warned Iran against starting work on uranium metal-based fuel for a research reactor in Tehran, saying it contravened the terms of 2015 nuclear accord and had “grave military implications”.
“We strongly encourage Iran to end this activity, and return to full compliance with the commitments under the JCPOA without delay,” read the joint statement.
The call came after the UN nuclear watchdog (IAEA) said Iran had notified it about resumption of research on uranium metal production to deliver advanced fuel for a Tehran reactor.
In response, Iran’s atomic energy body called on IAEA and the E3 countries to avoid creating any “misunderstanding” on the issue, stressing that it had not yet “presented the design information questionnaire (DIQ) of the uranium metal factory” to the UN watchdog.
It further said that Iran would notify the IAEA about its plan for designing a uranium metal facility if the European countries and the US fail to save the deal as per the ultimatum.
Iran has significantly reduced its commitments under the 2015 nuclear pact since the US administration announced unilateral withdrawal from it in May 2018.
Last month, Iran’s parliament announced that the “strategic action plan” to counter the US sanctions has become a law, despite government’s initial opposition.
The law required the government to resume 20% uranium enrichment and increase the stockpile of low-enriched uranium, which finally saw implementation earlier this month.
Iran’s parliament has also called for designing uranium metal facility, which has further raised eyebrows among the signatories of the 2015 pact.
US President-elect Joe Biden, who assumes office next week, has expressed willingness to return to the deal provided Iran resumes “strict compliance”.
Iran has said that the steps taken to reduce commitments under the deal are “reversible” if the US returns “without conditions”.
However, Iranian officials have ruled out negotiations on the country’s ballistic missile program, saying it is for defense purpose.
By Syed Zafar Mehdi in Tehran