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  • Malta's Foreign Minister Carmelo Abela talks with his British counterpart Jeremy Hunt during a EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium July 15, 2019.

    Malta's Foreign Minister Carmelo Abela talks with his British counterpart Jeremy Hunt during a EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium July 15, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 15 July 2019

U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said European powers should try to salvage the 2015 Nuclear deal with Iran, which the U.S. has jeopardized.

Britain said Monday there was a "small window" of time to save the Iran nuclear deal, as Tehran signaled it would ramp up its nuclear program if Europe failed to do more to salvage the pact.

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"Iran is still a good year away from developing a nuclear bomb. There is still some closing, but small window to keep the deal alive," Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told reporters on arrival for a foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels.

Hunt said that the agreement “isn’t dead yet” but if the conflict escalates and Iran acquires nuclear weapons, other countries in the Middle East will follow suit leading  a “very toxic and dangerous situation.”

The conflict between Iran and the West escalated since U.S. President Donald Trump decided last year to abandon the nuclear deal under which Iran agreed to curtail its atomic program in return for relief from economic sanctions crippling its economy. Trump also reimposed sanctions on Iran while the latter sought to enrich uranium beyond the permitted amount as a challenge to the North American country. 

The Brussels gathering will seek to flesh out how to convince Iran and the United States to reduce tensions and start a dialogue amid fears that the 2015 deal is close to collapse.

Unlike the U.S., the European countries are wary of imposing sanctions on Iran even if it cuts some of its nuclear commitments under the deal. 

Speaking before leaving Brussels, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom suggested the Europeans would still leave the door open for diplomacy, but that Tehran should not take further measures that could breach the accord.

Going against the hostile approach of the United States towards Iran European powers especially Britain, France, and Germany said that they would not trigger a dispute resolution mechanism enshrined in the 2015 nuclear accord that could lead to the reimposition of United Nations sanctions after the Middle East country announced on July 1 that it had amassed more low-enriched uranium than permitted. 

When asked whether European powers would seek to penalize Iran for breaking parts of its nuclear commitments, Hunt said they would seek a meeting of the parties to deal with it.

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"We will and there’s something called a joint commission, which is the mechanism set up in the deal which is what happens when one side thinks the other side has breached it, that will happen very soon,” he said.

He said that the EU would launch an “investigation” and that they want “to give Iran a way out of this so that they can get back into compliance with the nuclear deal.”

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech Sunday that they are ready to hold talks with Trump’s administration if it lifts sanctions and returns to the 2015 nuclear deal it quit last year. 

Trump, on the other hand, declared Wednesday that sanctions on Iran would soon be increased “substantially” showing no interest of de-escalating the conflict. 

Leaked cables from an unknown source about former U.K. ambassador, Kim Darroch, revealed this Sunday that Trump withdrew from the nuclear agreement with Iran to erase former U.S. President Barack Obama's legacy. Darroch called it “diplomatic vandalism.”

France, Germany and the U.K. issued a joint statement before the meeting. 

“The risks are such that it is necessary for all stakeholders to pause and consider the possible consequences of their actions,” the statement said.

“We believe that the time has come to act responsibly and to look for ways to stop the escalation of tension and resume dialogue.”

The statement holds the U.S. sanctions responsible for the unraveling of the deal. 

“We are concerned by the risk that the nuclear deal further unravels under the strain of sanctions imposed by the United States and following Iran’s decision to no longer implement several of the central provisions of the agreement,” the European powers said. 

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