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  • Iran's top nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi and EEAS Secretary General Helga Schmid attend a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria July 28, 2019.

    Iran's top nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi and EEAS Secretary General Helga Schmid attend a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria July 28, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 28 July 2019

Parties to the 2015 nuclear deal met Iranian officials for talks due to escalating tensions between Iran and the West that includes confrontations at sea.

An emergency meeting with parties to Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal was constructive but there are unresolved issues and Tehran will continue to reduce its nuclear commitments if Europeans fail to salvage the pact, Iranian official Abbas Araqchi said Sunday.

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“The atmosphere was constructive. Discussions were good. I cannot say that we resolved everything, I can say there are lots of commitments,” Araqchi, the senior Iranian nuclear negotiator, told reporters after the meeting in Vienna.

Parties to the agreement - Britain, Germany and France plus Russia and China - met Iranian officials for talks called in response to an escalation in tensions between Iran and the West that included confrontations at sea. 

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

The parties have been trying to salvage the pact since the United States withdrew from it in May 2018 and re-imposed and toughened sanctions on Iran. 

Iran has said it will withdraw from the pact unless the Europeans find ways to shield its economy from the U.S. sanctions. “All our steps taken so far are reversible if other parties to the deal fulfill their commitments,” an Iranian diplomat told Reuters ahead of the meeting.

In response to the sanctions, Iran said in May it would decrease its commitments under the nuclear pact. Under the deal, most international sanctions against Tehran were lifted in 2016, in exchange for limitations on its nuclear work.

So far, Iran has breached the limit of its enriched uranium stockpile as well as enriching uranium beyond a 3.67 percent purity limit set by its deal with major powers, as a challenge to the U.S. sanctions. 

The U.N. nuclear watchdog, policing the deal, has confirmed the measures announced by Tehran.

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Fu Cong, director-general of the Department of Arms Control of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, who leads the Chinese delegation, said,  “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.”

The meeting came after Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards seized a British-flagged oil tanker on July 19, two weeks after British forces captured an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar which it said was violating sanctions on Syria.

Araqchi said Britain’s seizure of the Iranian tanker was a violation of the nuclear pact. “The countries who are part of (the nuclear deal) shouldn’t create obstacles for the export of Iranian oil,” Araqchi said.

Britain has called for a European-led naval mission to ensure safe shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, a vital international oil shipping route. An Iranian government spokesman said Sunday such a mission would send a “hostile message”.

Iranian President Hasan Rouhani also spoke against it saying, “The presence of foreign forces will not only not help the security of the region, but will be the main factor for tension."

Britain said Sunday Royal Navy destroyer HMS Duncan had arrived in the Gulf to join a British frigate escorting British-flagged ships through the Strait.

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