Germany’s Foreign Minister Maas and his colleagues from Paris and London as well as EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini stated they were ‘extremely concerned’ about Iran’s repeated violations of the nuclear agreement. The EU would now consider ‘mechanisms’ in order to settle the ongoing dispute, which could eventually lead to the reintroduction of UN sanctions.
On Thursday, Iran officially resumed uranium enrichment at the Fordo nuclear facility. On Sunday, the country said it had increased uranium enrichment to five per cent. Based on the agreement, however, the maximum allowed is 3.67 per cent.
The nuclear agreement of 2015 is designed to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons and subjects its nuclear program to international control. In return, international and national sanctions against the country were lifted, including sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council.
However, Iran has gradually withdrawn from the international nuclear deal since May. Teheran argues it was a response to the US’s exit from the agreement last year and the reintroduction and tightening of US economic sanctions.
The recent steps taken by Tehran represented a ‘regrettable acceleration’ of the Iranian withdrawal from the obligations of the agreement of 2015, according to the joint statement of the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Great Britain and Mogherinis. The Iranian leadership must immediately undo all violations of the nuclear agreement.
At the same time, they reaffirmed their ‘determination to continue all efforts to maintain the agreement’ – but also warn that they are considering ‘all dispute resolution mechanisms, including the dispute settlement mechanism.’
By mentioning the mechanisms, Maas is referring to the possible start of the dispute settlement procedure under Article 36 of the Atomic Energy Agreement. If the procedure led to no satisfactory outcome, EU sanctions against Iran would ultimately be reintroduced.
Meanwhile, the dispute settlement mechanism provides for a multi-stage procedure with numerous deadlines. It may be activated if one party believes that provisions of the agreement are being violated by the other. It would likely be a long process, probably over several months. Without an agreement with Iran, however, it could ultimately lead to the reintroduction of UN sanctions.
Iran has, for some time, been demonstratively violating the key requirements of the agreement. The government in Tehran justifies the steps by the US’ decision to reimpose sanctions, which forced Iran back into economic isolation, it argues.
The Europeans, however, do not accept this argument and point out that the US’ action must not hinder the remaining parties to abide by the agreement and thereby seek to ensure that EU companies can maintain business relations with Iran.
Whether or not this renewed approach can appease, Iran remains to be seen. So far, Teheran has repeatedly displayed its willingness to hold the EU ‘hostage’ over its nuclear program. A sudden paradigm shift, based on the latest statements of ‘extreme concerns’ cannot end Iran’s violations, but buys the time to gain even more significant leverage in the long run.