Iran turns to diplomacy after US pulls out of nuclear deal

TEHRAN: Iran’s foreign minister will embark on a diplomatic tour to try to salvage the nuclear deal following the US withdrawal and global fears. Mohammad Javad Zarif will leave late on Saturday for visits to Beijing, Moscow and Brussels, a spokesman said on Friday, holding meetings with all five of the remaining parties to the 2015 nuclear deal.
Iran appeared determined not to be drawn into a wider regional conflict with Israel during the sensitive negotiations. That is despite Israel’s claims it struck dozens of targets inside Syria early on Thursday.
Iran must tread a delicate line as it seeks to show resolve against Trump and the Israeli strikes without alienating the European partners it needs to salvage something from the nuclear deal.
Under the nuclear deal, Iran curbed its nuclear programme in return for lifting most international non-nuclear sanctions imposed on the country that crippled its economy for years. Most sanctions were lifted in 2016.
Zarif will hold high-pressure talks with the other parties to the deal, first in Beijing and Moscow, and then with his counterparts from Britain, France and Germany in Brussels on Tuesday.
All five have condemned Trump’s move to walk out of the deal and reimpose crippling sanctions, but European companies in particular will be highly vulnerable to economic pressure from Washington.
France still hopes for a wider settlement that will cover Iran’s activities across the Middle East.
On Friday the Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin had spoken with Germany’s Angela Merkel and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a bid to keep the Iran nuclear deal alive.
Ankara has been working closely with Moscow and Tehran over the past year on the Syrian peace process despite Turkey and Russia being on opposing sides of the conflict.
Putin has previously voiced “deep concern” over US President Donald Trump’s decision and Russian officials have said they would work with European partners to preserve the agreement. “The importance of preserving the deal from a point of view of international and regional stability was highlighted,” the Kremlin said in a statement following a call between Putin and Merkel.
The two leaders also discussed the situation in Syria as well as Merkel’s planned working visit to Russia next week, Moscow said.
The White House wants intrusive inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites to continue despite US withdrawal from a landmark accord, US officials have said.
Days after the US president walked away from a three-year-old deal that mandated rigorous scrutiny of Iranian facilities, senior administration officials said monitoring should continue regardless. — AFP/Reuters