Iran expects measures to save nuclear deal by end of May
European countries have until the end of May to propose ways to mitigate the effects of the US withdrawal from a landmark nuclear deal between world powers and Tehran, a senior Iranian official said Friday.
Tehran has threatened to restart its uranium enrichment programme at an "industrial level" if the 2015 pact falls apart.
The comments came ahead of the first "joint commission" meeting in Vienna between the other signatories of the deal – China, Russia, France, Britain, Germany and Iran – since Washington's dramatic announcement on 8 May that it was pulling out from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and would re-impose sanctions on Iran.
The move has put the deal in "intensive care", the senior Iranian official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
US President Donald Trump has long trashed the deal – concluded under his predecessor Barack Obama – saying it did not do enough to curtail Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
After Friday's meeting, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said negotiations were ongoing with the remaining signatories "to see if they can provide us with a package which can give Iran the benefits of sanctions lifting".
He added that "practical solutions" were required to address Iran's concerns over its oil exports, banking flows and foreign investments in the country.
"The next step is to find guarantees for that package," he said.
Araghchi said that talks would continue over the next few weeks "particularly at an expert level", after which Iran would decide whether or not to stay in the accord.
"We got the sense that Europeans, Russia and China... are serious and they recognise that JCPOA's survival depends on the interests of Iran being respected," Araghchi added.
A senior EU official said after the meeting that the bloc could not "give guarantees but we can create the necessary conditions for the Iranians to keep benefiting from the sanctions lifting under the JCPOA and to protect our interests and continue to develop legitimate business with Iran."
"We are working on a variety of measures to mitigate consequences of the US withdrawal," the official, who did not want to be named, said while cautioning that "there are things that will take more time".
Russian delegate Mikhail Ulyanov struck an upbeat note, saying: "We have all chances to succeed, provided that we have the political will.
"I must tell you that the JCPOA is a major international asset. It does not belong to the United States, it belongs to the whole international community."
He added that the possibility of referring the matter back to the UN "was not discussed during this meeting". (AFP)