The European countries that are parties to the nuclear deal have begun a complex diplomatic process to compel Tehran to return to respecting its nuclear obligations without imposing new sanctions on it that could kill the 2015 Vienna agreement.
France, Britain and Germany have embarked on a dispute settlement mechanism provided in the agreement, in the event that the pledges are violated, AFP has reported. It is the strongest step they have taken so far to enforce Iran’s compliance.
European countries have said they are working to avert a crisis over nuclear proliferation adding to the escalating confrontation in the Middle East.
The three European countries said in a joint statement that they do not accept the pretext that Iran has the right to limit compliance with the agreement, making it clear that they have no choice but to activate the mechanism that could eventually lead to international sanctions against Tehran, Reuters reported.
On January 5th, Tehran unveiled the "fifth and final stage" of its program to abandon its international nuclear obligations, in response to the US withdrawal from the agreement in 2018 and the re-imposition of harsh US sanctions that stifle Iran's economy, although it said it would continue to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
"We do not accept the argument that Iran is entitled to reduce compliance with the JCPoA," the three European countries said in a joint statement, using the initials of the formal name of the agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Reuters said.
"Our three countries are not joining a campaign to implement maximum pressure against Iran. Our hope is to bring Iran back into full compliance with its commitments under the JCPoA."
Iran has warned the three countries of "the consequences of its decision".
"Of course, if the Europeans... seek to abuse (this process), they must also be prepared to accept the consequences," the Iranian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
According to AFP, the three powers said that they "once again express our commitment" to the deal and expressed "determination to work with all participants to preserve it."
Two European diplomats said that Britain, France and Germany will notify the European Union, on Tuesday, of activating the dispute settlement mechanism.
According to the mechanism contained in the agreement, the European Union (EU), after receiving the notification of the three countries, will notify the other parties, namely Russia, China and Iran, as well. After that, there is a 15-day deadline for resolving the dispute, which can be extended by consensus, Reuters said.
The process could ultimately lead to the re-imposition of the sanctions stipulated in previous United Nations resolutions.
The EU's diplomatic chief, Josep Borrell, who is charged with overseeing the dispute settlement mechanism, called on all countries participating in the agreement with Iran to preserve the text, considering that this matter is "more important than ever".
Nuclear diplomacy is at the heart of the wider confrontation between Iran and the United States, in which Washington killed the IRGC's commander, General Qassem Soleimani, in a drone strike in Baghdad, and Tehran responded by firing missiles at US targets in Iraq.
"Given recent events, it is all the more important that we do not add a nuclear proliferation crisis to the current escalation threatening the whole region," the European states said.
They confirmed that they will not join a "campaign to apply maximum pressure on Iran" that Trump is promoting.
Meanwhile, Paris, Berlin and London hope that the diplomatic track will take its course in the crisis with Iran; a risky bet that may be hindered by new anti-regime demonstrations in Tehran.
However, British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said he would be willing to work on an alternative "Trump deal" to replace the JCPoA, which had been negotiated by the administration of former President Obama.
"The JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) is the only deal that currently exists which prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon but as the prime minister said before ... if in the future we can agree a better deal that has the support of the United States ... then that's something we will work towards," Johnson's spokesperson said, as cited by Reuters.
In this regard, the US Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, said on Tuesday January 14th that Washington is very pleased that Johnson agreed with Trump's assessment.
Hook said Washington supports France, Britain and Germany's move to officially launch the dispute mechanism of the Iranian nuclear deal, but also added that his country wants them to join in diplomatic isolation efforts against Tehran
"We do support the Europeans initiating the dispute resolution mechanism. ... What the president has asked for is for them to leave the deal and join us in our diplomacy to get a new deal," Hook said.
On the other hand,the semi-official Fars News Agency quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying that the use of the dispute resolution mechanism provided by France, Britain and Germany is "a strategic mistake".
"The usage of the dispute mechanism is legally baseless and a strategic mistake from a political standpoint," Zarif said, according to Fars.
Moscow also condemned the European decision to launch the mechanism to settle disputes with Iran and warned that this matter could lead to a "new escalation".
The Russian news agency, TASS, quoted the Foreign Ministry as saying that activating the mechanism may make it impossible to return to the implementation of the agreement.