World powers meet to pump life into the dying nuclear treaty with Iran, even as US disagrees

On Sunday, representatives of the world powers (Britain, Germany, France, China, Iran, Russia, and the European Union) party to the 2015 nuclear treaty met in Vienna to discuss the details of an agreement that restricts Iran from undertaking the nuclear program.

The meeting was organized amid escalating tensions between US and Iran, increasing pressure of US sanctions, Tehran’s accelerating nuclear activities and acts of Piracy in Strait of Hormuz, the most crucial international oil shipping route.

As the meeting ended, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi told reporters, “The atmosphere was constructive, and the discussions were good. I cannot say that we resolved everything” but all the parties are still determined to save this deal.”

Araqchi added, “As we have said, we will continue to reduce our commitments to the deal until Europeans secure Iran’s interests under the deal.”

The treaty came into being in July 2015, as Iran traded barring its nuclear activities with getting some sanctions lifted as a respite for its battered economy. It also agreed to enrich uranium only to lower levels and not store more than 300kg.

In May 2018, US President Donald Trump quit the deal, saying that Tehran was “not living up to the spirit” of the treaty, and reimposed sanctions. The US sanctions bar not only US companies from doing business with Iran, but also prevents non-US organizations from undertaking any commercial activity with Iran.

Iran retaliated to US pressure not as per the likes of Washington and challenged the sanctions by exceeding the limit permitted limit for enriching uranium, moving from 3.67% to 4.5% and started storing about 24000 kg of low-enriched uranium, way above what it was allowed. Enriched uranium is used in the making of nuclear weapons. Iran justified its move of intensifying its nuclear activities as a reaction to US-imposed ‘economic blockage’.

Besides US, other members of the treaty said that they did not consider Iran’s soaring uranium level so far to be significantly noncompliant to the treaty. A Chinese diplomat told reporters, “All sides have expressed their commitment to safeguard the JCPOA (nuclear deal) and to continue to implement the JCPOA in a balanced manner. All sides have expressed their strong opposition against the U.S. unilateral imposition of sanctions.”

European powers have been trying hard to save the treaty as they fear the ever increasing confrontation between Tehran and Washington would further hamper global trade and if not controlled could even lead to war. Iran is exerting pressure on other parties of the agreement through threats such as visible in the statement given by an Iranian diplomat to Reuters ahead of the meeting. The person said, “All our steps taken so far are reversible if other parties to the deal fulfill their commitments.”

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