Tillerson Sees Progress in Talks With Europe on Nuclear Deal

Tillerson Sees Progress in Talks With Europe on Nuclear DealTillerson Sees Progress in Talks With Europe on Nuclear Deal

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Monday he sees progress in getting European support for tough new measures against Iran that could prevent a US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

After meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May, national security advisor Mark Sedwill, and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Tillerson said they had agreed to set up a working group of experts on fixing flaws in the landmark 2015 agreement that US President Donald Trump has warned he will walk away from this spring unless fixes are made to his liking.

“I think there’s a common view among the E3 that there are some areas of the [nuclear deal] or some areas of Iran’s behavior that should be addressed,” Tillerson told reporters after talks with Johnson, AP reported.

The E3 are Britain, France, and Germany, which are all parties to the deal.

Tillerson specifically highlighted concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile program, which is not covered by the nuclear deal, and provisions in the agreement that allow Iran to gradually resume advanced atomic work.

The working group will begin to meet as early as next week to discuss how to address the flaws “through some type of another side agreement perhaps or a mechanism that would address our concerns,” Tillerson said.

Johnson said Britain was committed to doing what it could with its partners “collectively to constrain that activity and to make a big difference there. We think we can do that; we think we can do that together.”

  Parallel Mechanism

But, he stressed, “It is important that we do that in parallel and don’t vitiate the fundamentals of the Iran nuclear deal.”

Tillerson was to carry a similar message to Paris, his next stop in Europe on Tuesday. The nuclear deal gave Iran billions in sanctions relief in return for curbs on its atomic program.

But earlier this month, Trump vowed to stop waiving US sanctions unless the Europeans agreed to strengthen its terms by consenting to a side deal that would effectively eliminate provisions that allow Iran to gradually resume some advanced atomic work. Trump also wants tighter restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile program.

Iran has rejected any renegotiation. Britain, France, and Germany have expressed some willingness to work with the US to prevent the deal from collapsing.

Earlier Monday, Tillerson became the highest-ranking US official to visit the new American Embassy in London, a building that Trump has derided for its cost and location.

The new embassy became a point of strain in US-British relations earlier this month when Trump said he had cancelled plans to visit Britain and formally open the billion-dollar London facility in February because it cost too much and was in a less desirable location than the old embassy.

  White House Could Miss Deadline  

Later in the day, Tillerson said the US may not be able to fix the perceived flaws in the Iran nuclear agreement in time to meet the next White House deadline in May to extend sanctions waivers.    

“The US is under a bit of a timetable to deliver on what the president is looking for, but we don’t—we can’t set timetables for others,” Tillerson told reporters accompanying him on a flight from London to Paris, according to the Hill. The top diplomat said he planned to address the matter by hosting for a working dinner Germany, France, and Italy, countries the US has had previous informal talks with about the deal, as well as the European Union.

“So this is just a continuation of the exchange of views on how we can address these flaws in the nuclear agreement, what kind of mechanisms we [could] use, but also how can we cooperate more on countering Iran’s activities that are not related to the nuclear program,” he said.

“So we’re formalizing—I think maybe what we’re doing is we’re formalizing these groups to put a little bit more of structure around our working together to see what we can do together,” he added.


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