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European Union calls for talks next month on the Iranian nuclear deal

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Brussels is trying to gain more time to save the Iranian nuclear deal on Friday, as it called for a meeting in Vienna in February, after Britain, France and Germany launched the dispute settlement mechanism.

European capitals launched this mechanism last week after Iran took a series of steps that violate its obligations under the nuclear deal to protest against Washington’s withdrawal from it in 2018.

This could have accelerated the breakdown of the agreement, but European Union Foreign Minister Josep Borrell, who is in charge of holding meetings under the dispute settlement mechanism, called for new talks.

Borrell said he had held consultations with the rest of the countries still party to the agreement, which are Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia.

He stressed that all these countries are determined to salvage the agreement, although it has begun to collapse since US President Donald Trump announced his unilateral withdrawal and reimposed sanctions on Tehran, prompting the Islamic Republic to announce a series of steps to abandon its obligations contained in the agreement.

“Despite the differing views on the formulas, there is agreement on the need for more time due to the complexity of the issues associated with (the file). Therefore, the time frame has been extended,” Borrell said in a statement.

“Everyone agreed to continue the talks at the expert level that address the concerns associated with the implementation of the nuclear agreement, as well as the broader implications of the US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement and the reimposition of sanctions,” he added.

Borrell indicated that the committee overseeing the agreement, which includes representatives from all countries that still sign it, will meet in February 2020, although he has not given a specific date.

The committee usually meets in Vienna, but sometimes meets in New York or Geneva.

– room to maneuver –

Under the terms of the dispute settlement mechanism, senior officials have 15 days from January 14 to activate the complaints mechanism to find a solution before deciding whether to raise the issue to the level of foreign ministers.

By inviting him to a meeting in February, Borrell extended this initial timetable, which was designed to resolve technical complaints rather than the slow political breakdown of the agreement.

European officials say the ambiguity in drafting the text was deliberate to make room for maneuver in the crisis, and it now appears likely that the process of resolving the dispute could be prolonged for some time.

Upon launching the mechanism, the Europeans called on Iran to return to full compliance with the agreement concluded in 2015 and led to the lifting of some of the sanctions imposed on it in exchange for reducing its nuclear activities.

However, the diplomatic community is not likely to accept Iran without this, without obtaining major concessions, such as ending US sanctions or taking measures to reduce the impact of sanctions on its economy.

The Europeans are likely to accept Iran’s conviction not to take steps out of the deal in a way that would give way to the back-channel diplomatic channels aimed at striking a deal that would put Washington and Tehran back into the game again.

“We want to sit around a table in order to reach a solution and reach a stable stage in which matters do not deteriorate,” a diplomat said.

Germany, Britain and France launched the dispute settlement mechanism on January 14 after Iran announced that it would not abide by the restrictions on the number of centrifuges used to enrich uranium, in the fifth step of its kind out of agreement.

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