Russia Says Trump "Blackmailing" EU on Iran

Russia’s envoy to the EU says Moscow does not see any reason for amending the nuclear agreement and there are no clear signs that the European parties to the deal have changed their position seeking to support the US
Russia's Permanent Representative to the EU Vladimir ChizhovRussia's Permanent Representative to the EU Vladimir Chizhov

US President Donald Trump's statements on the Iran nuclear deal are aimed at blackmailing the European Union, says Russia's Permanent Representative to the EU Vladimir Chizhov.  

"It is difficult to consider Trump's recent statements as anything other than an attempt to blackmail the European participants in the deal," Chizhov told TASS news agency on the sidelines of an event at the European Parliament on Wednesday.

Trump gave the nuclear agreement a final reprieve on January 12 but warned European allies and the US Congress they have to work with him to fix "the disastrous flaws" in the pact or face a US exit.

The Russian diplomat said Moscow does not see any reason for amending the nuclear agreement, which involves the United States, China, France, Russia, Britain, and Germany.

It stipulates that Tehran should curb its uranium enrichment program in return for relief from international sanctions.

"The IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] is the one to verify the implementation of the document," Chizhov said, noting that the agency has many times verified Iran's compliance with the terms of the agreement signed in 2015.

***Change in Position

He also said Moscow has been maintaining dialogue with all the participants of the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The European parties to the JCPOA over Iran's nuclear program do not seem to be willing to change their position concerning the need to preserve the document in its current form, he stated.

"There are no clear signs that the European members of the six-party group have changed their position seeking to support the US," the Russian envoy said.

*** Common View

According to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Berlin, Paris, London, and Washington have set up a working group of experts on amending the deal. The group is expected to start meeting soon.

The official says they all have a "common view" that the nuclear deal should be supplemented.

It has been reported in western media that key European powers are likely to present a "package of measures" to Washington to allay Trump's concerns about Iran without reopening the nuclear pact.

The new strategy could include threatening Iran with targeted economic sanctions if it does not agree to curtail its ballistic weapons arsenal as well as pressuring Tehran into changing its regional policy, according to Reuters.

Iran has repeatedly said its missile program is purely defensive and has dismissed accusations that its regional activities are destabilizing.

*** European Tactic

Officials and experts say the Europeans are willing to explore cooperation with the US to try to address shared concerns about Iran but continue to resist Trump's demands to renegotiate the nuclear accord, which they believe is working.

"What the Europeans are indicating to me, is this is part of the tactic to keep the US president on board, [but] we are being very clear this is not a reopening of the negotiations," Ellie Geranmayeh, an Iran expert with the European Council on Foreign Relations, told Al-Monitor in a phone interview from London on Friday regarding the transatlantic consultations.

"So, [it is] not reopening or a renegotiation of the agreement, but it is a side agreement, with the potential, the hope, to bring in Iran at some stage," she noted.

"Regarding Iran … cooperation between the E3 [UK, France, and Germany] and the US has always been essential," a senior European diplomat, speaking not for attribution, told Al-Monitor by email. "It is still the case."

***Harmless Talks

Former US nuclear negotiator Richard Nephew says the consultations cannot hurt.

"There is some chance that through those conversations they will find something that is acceptable to Europe and acceptable to Trump that they can do together," Nephew, now with Columbia University, told Al-Monitor on Wednesday. "These are the kinds of conversations they would have been having anyway."

"From the European perspective, they have to make the assumption that the deal is almost dead anyway," Nephew said. "It's worth seeing if there are outcomes that could potentially work. It's hard for anyone to do more damage to it."

***Sanctions Push

House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan told a conference in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday that the US is in talks with the European Union about tightening sanctions on Iran over its missile program and foreign policy.  

Speaking in the capital Abu Dhabi, Ryan claimed the Islamic Republic is seeking to expand its influence in the region at the expense of staunch US allies like the UAE and Saudi Arabia and needed to be constrained by sanctions.

The US and other major powers lifted broad sanctions on Iran after the landmark deal over its nuclear program, but Washington has since slapped Tehran with new sanctions over its long-range missile program. Ryan said the EU should follow suit.

"There's more that we can do from the economic side. We have the tools we can use along with our allies ... that's the discussion we're having about tightening up sanctions and trying to get Europe involved in that," he added, Reuters reported.

The UAE is a major US ally that hosts some 5,000 American troops and the US Navy's busiest foreign port of call. The UAE also has purchased billions in American armaments, including the US-made Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD.

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