IRAN (OBSERVATORY) – The European Union failed to agree on new sanctions on Iran amid opposition from Italy and fears that punishing Tehran over its missile program and regional role would not prevent US President Donald Trump from abandoning the nuclear deal.
Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg, some diplomats said the outcome meant the bloc might not succeed in meeting the May 12 deadline set by the US president to “reform” the nuclear deal in 2015.
The EU is seeking to salvage the deal, under which Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear ambitions for at least 10 years, but Trump strongly criticized it.
Trump has threatened not to extend Washington’s suspension of sanctions against Iran in accordance with an agreement that saw the West agree to lift wide-ranging sanctions against Tehran in return for curbing its nuclear program.
In an effort to respond to Trump’s criticism of the agreement and Tehran more broadly, France, Britain and Germany proposed sanctions on “Iranian armed factions and military commanders” fighting on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Those countries hope that Iran’s responsibility for these actions will convince Trump not to withdraw from the nuclear deal but has faced opposition from and supported by Austria.
“Maybe the deadlock is in the nuclear deal anyway, why should we risk encouraging conservatives in Iran and undermining our chances of winning contracts there,” said a skeptical camp diplomat.
But another diplomat from one of the three European powers noted that the bloc still has four weeks to go. “Obviously we are heading to that (deadline), although we need a little more time,” he said.
A third diplomat said the bloc was unlikely to impose new sanctions before mid-May.
With the European Union as a whole interested in protecting the nuclear deal, the EU foreign ministers agreed to continue working on this issue in the coming days and weeks. “The issue is still on the agenda,” said German Foreign Minister Haikou Mas.
The Union last week extended its sanctions against Iran for its human rights abuses.