Prioritising to resolve disagreements

Wednesday, 2020-02-05 16:53:03
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Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif shakes hands with High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of European Commission Josep Borrell in Tehran, Iran, February 3, 2020. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO – High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy J. Borrell has recently made the first official visit to Iran to discuss measures to “cool down” tensions between the EU and Tehran. This is an attempt to “save” a nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) that Iran signed with the P5+1 before the meeting in Vienna (Austria) of the other party joining JCPoA.

The senior EU official has met with Iranian President H. Rohhani to “ease” the escalating tensions in the Middle East following the US air strike at Baghdad International Airport (Iraq), which killed the Iranian General. The Iranian leader has confirmed that he was fully prepared to cooperate with the EU to resolve issues related to the JCPoA nuclear deal. Currently, there are still issues that need to be worked out between Tehran and European countries, and the two sides must take measures to build up a solid trust that was previously severely damaged after the UK, France and Germany triggered the JCPoA Dispute Resolution Mechanism.

The move to enable the JCPoA Dispute Resolution Mechanism aimed to give EU member countries more time to persuade Iran to comply with the terms of the nuclear agreement after Tehran implemented a series of cutting commitments into the deal. However, the new measures could also restore the UN Security Council sanctions on Tehran. Since, according to the terms set out in JCPoA, one party may petition a joint committee regarding the other’s serious breach of the agreement. If the dispute is not resolved by a joint committee, it will be brought to an advisory board and may eventually be brought to the UN Security Council, leading to a re-imposition of UN sanctions on Iran. Although both the EU and Iran would prefer to avoid this route, European powers are “reluctant” to use the measure to prevent Tehran’s repeating moves to cut commitments under the JCPoA. In response to the EU’s measure, the Iranian Foreign Ministry later warned European countries would have to face “consequences” should the EU go through with the measures.

The EU and Iran have both agreed on the importance of reducing tensions and working with international partners to find a diplomatic solution to the current situation as soon as possible. With increasing tensions in the Middle East during the early days of 2020, the maintenance of the Iran nuclear deal is considered to be more important than ever before. The JCPoA helps the West to reduce concerns regarding the risk of Iran possessing nuclear weapons. However, the JCPoA is being threatened to be disrupted after the US unilaterally withdrew from the agreement and re-imposed sanctions on Iran, followed by a series of Tehran’s statements about “narrowing” the fulfilment of commitments in the nuclear deal, specifically the increase of uranium enrichment. Deputy Head of Iran's Nuclear Agency A. Zarean has recently warned that if they were allowed by Iranian officials, the agency would be competent enough to enrich uranium to whatever level they wants. Iran criticised the EU for failing to fulfil its commitments to protect Tehran’s interests in the face of US sanctions, and that Europe gave in to US pressure. Germany’s Federal Minister of Defence once acknowledged the existence of US President D. Trump’s threat regarding the 25% taxation on EU car exports if European countries continue to support the Iran nuclear deal.

The current tensions between Iran and the West need to be cooled down after the “tit for tat” between Iran and the US has caused the international community to be greatly concerned about the risk of war breaking out. The US House of Representatives has recently passed two bills to stop President D. Trump’s military action on Iran. The visit by the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to Iran during the early days of this year demonstrates that the EU is prioritising diplomatic efforts to resolve disagreements with Tehran as well as contribute to reducing tensions in the region.