Europe Engages With Tehran on Region

Europe Engages With Tehran on RegionEurope Engages With Tehran on Region

European powers and Iran have started talks over Tehran’s role in the Middle East and will meet again this month in Italy as part of efforts to prove to US President Donald Trump that they are meeting his concerns over the 2015 nuclear deal, Reuters reported. Iranian officials say Tehran is open to discussions on the region but is not ready to enter into any agreement on its regional clout or modify its foreign policy.

With Trump warning of a last chance for “the worst deal ever negotiated”, Britain, France, and Germany have been working with US officials to draw up a strategy to improve the Iran nuclear deal in return for Trump keeping the pact alive by renewing US sanctions relief on May 12. Iran has rejected any renegotiation of the deal.

Parallel to those efforts, the three European powers, joined by Italy and the European Union, have initiated discussions with Iran to address regional issues amid western, Persian Gulf Arab and Israeli allegation that Iran’s role in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Iraq is destabilizing.

Tehran denies this and accuses the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia of fomenting tensions in the Middle East.

Senior officials held a first meeting on the sidelines of last month’s Munich security conference, focusing on the Yemen conflict. They are due to meet again in Italy this month, two European diplomats said. A third European confirmed the Munich meeting.

“In Munich we laid out what was expected from them in Yemen. They obviously said it wasn’t them, but we drew some conclusions to move forward together,” said a senior European diplomat.

“The Iranians are pretty co-operative, but having a positive meeting doesn’t mean we’ll see any sort of impact in the real world.”

Iran backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country’s almost seven-year-old civil war, Shia Muslim militias in Iraq, Houthi forcers in Yemen, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

“Most of the gaps can be narrowed with the West ... but it needs goodwill and loads of work,” Reuters quoted an unnamed Iranian official as saying. “The West should gain our trust again ... the nuclear deal was not fully implemented, how can we trust them on other issues?”

The talks with the Europeans come after the most serious confrontation yet between Israel and Iranian-backed forces in Syria last month.

The senior diplomat said the Europeans hoped to discuss the role of pro-Iranian militias in southern Lebanon and southern Syria in their next round of meetings.

The European powers, who meet American officials in Berlin on March 15, have stressed to the United States that while they will work on an Iran strategy, including tackling its ballistic missile program, in return Trump must not kill the accord.

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