UK open to Trump Iran deal that would tackle 'destabilizing Middle East activity'

Donald Trump has called for a new deal with Iran that tackles Tehran's aggressive policies in the region. (AFP/File photo)
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Updated 15 January 2020

UK open to Trump Iran deal that would tackle 'destabilizing Middle East activity'

  • Boris Johnson says a "Trump deal" would tackle Tehran's aggressive foreign policy in the Middle East
  • Comments come as Britain, France and Germany triggered a dispute mechanism against Iran for violating 2015 accord

LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tuesday he would favor replacing the Iranian nuclear deal with an accord that Washington could support.
Johnson's proposal for a "Trump deal" that would tackle Tehran's aggressive foreign policy in the Middle East came just hours before Britain, France and Germany triggered a dispute mechanism against Iran for violating the 2015 accord.

"If we are going to get rid of it (the nuclear deal), let's replace it and let's replace it with the Trump deal," the prime minister told BBC television in an interview.
"I think that would be a great way forward," he said, without giving further details on this would entail. 


Foreign minister Dominic Raab told parliament that while Johnson's remarks did not represent a policy shift Britain was willing to work with the US and European partners to build a broader initiative which would address not just Iran's nuclear ambitions but its destabilising activity in the region.
"We believe, as of now, that the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) is the best available deal for restraining Iran's nuclear ambitions and we want Iran to come back into full compliance," Raab told parliament.
"Equally .... the prime minister, the United States and our European partners are fully open to a broader initiative which would address not just the nuclear concerns but the broader concerns around the destabilising activity that we've seen recently."

The US said on Tuesday that it supported the Europeans lodging of the complaint.

European powers have been trying to salvage the JCPOA following the 2018 decision by President Donald Trump to pull the United States out.
But Tehran has wound down its compliance since then, prompting the three European parties to the deal to trigger a provision intended to hold Iran to account.
Britain, France and Germany said in a letter to the European Union's foreign policy chief Tuesday they had no choice but to trigger the deal's “dispute mechanism,” given Iran's ongoing transgressions.
The three said they rejected Tehran's argument that Iran was justified in violating the deal because the United States broke the agreement by pulling out unilaterally in 2018.
"We have therefore been left with no choice, given Iran’s actions, but to register today our concerns that Iran is not meeting its commitments,'' the countries said in a joint statement.

The JCPOA has a provision that allows a party to claim significant non-compliance by another party before a joint commission.
If the issue is not resolved by the commission, it then goes to an advisory board and eventually to the UN Security Council, which could reimpose sanctions.

Iran's foreign ministry warned of a "serious and strong response" to the European move. "If the Europeans... seek to abuse (this process), they must also be prepared to accept the consequences," it said.

Raab said Britain, the US and European powers had discussed at the G7 summit in Biarritz last year the possibility of a "broader deal" that had Washington's support.
"It's not just President Trump but also President Macron (of France) who have argued for a broader deal with Iran," he said.
Trump last week called on signatories to the JCPOA to withdraw from the agreement, and Johnson said he understood Washington's concerns.
"From the American perspective it's a flawed agreement, it expires, plus it was negotiated by (former) President Obama," the premier said.
"President Trump is a great deal-maker - by his own account and many others. Let's work together to replace the JCPOA and get the Trump deal instead."
Johnson's comments come after the a further diplomatic fallout between Iran and the UK over the arrest of the British ambassador Rob Macaire in Tehran on Saturday.

Britain summoned the Iranian ambassador to London on Monday in protest and sought assurances that it would not happen again and that embassy staff would be safe.

“The arrest of our Ambassador to Iran was a flagrant violation of international law and it is important that Iran understands how seriously we take this matter," Middle East minister Andrew Murrison said. 

Iran claimed Macaire had been attending an illegal protest, but the ambassador said he had merely gone along to a vigil for victims of a Ukrainian plane shot down by the Iranian military. The incident killed 176 people.

“We reiterate the importance of a full and transparent investigation into Ukraine International Airlines flight 752," Murrison said. "The loss of life in the crash was a tragedy and we express our condolences to the people of Iran as they grieve those who died.”

*With AFP and Reuters


British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

Updated 21 January 2020

British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

  • Palestinian envoy welcomes cross-party call ahead of visit by Prince Charles

LONDON: A group of British MPs has called for the UK to recognize the state of Palestine ahead of a visit by Prince Charles to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a letter to The Times, the MPs, along with figures from think tanks and pressure groups, said the move was long overdue and would help fulfill Britain’s “promise of equal rights for peoples in two states.” 

The call comes as the heir to the British throne travels on Thursday to Israel and the occupied West Bank. 

During the visit, he will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem. 

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

The letter said since 2014, no meaningful progress has been made in the peace process, and Israel’s actions are pushing a two-state solution beyond reach.

“Illegal Israeli settlements, described by the Foreign Office as undermining peace efforts, are expanding,” the letter said.

Among the signatories are Emily Thornberry, a candidate for the Labour Party leadership, and Crispin Blunt, chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council.

Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian envoy to the UK, welcomed the move but said full recognition from the British government should have happened many years ago.

“Recognition doesn’t contradict peacemaking and negotiations,” Zomlot told Arab News, referring to the main argument used by the UK against taking such a step. 

“It reinforces the vision (of a Palestinian state) and a negotiated two-state solution. It should happen now because of the threat of annexation (of Palestinian territory) and the killing of the two-state solution.”


Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

Alistair Carmichael, a Liberal Democrat MP who signed the letter, told Arab News that the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government toward Palestine “makes the achievement of a two-state solution more and more remote with every week that passes.”

He said: “The UK has historic and political obligations toward Israelis and Palestinians. There’s now no longer any good reason not to recognize the state of Palestine.”

A spokesman for Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who also signed the letter, told Arab News: “The fact that this has cross-party support shows the growing desire across Parliament for the recognition of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution.”

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, said the international community needs to finally stand up for the solution that it has had on the table for decades.

Doyle, an Arab News columnist, said the letter is an “indication that many people in British politics think we should be doing this, we should be standing up for the Palestinian right to self-determination, the legal rights, at a time when the state of Israel is doing everything to stop this, to take more land from the Palestinians.”

The letter was timed to coincide with a meeting of European foreign ministers on Monday, who discussed the Middle East peace process.

The Palestinian Authority, which runs parts of the West Bank, has been increasing calls for European countries to recognize the state of Palestine as the US has shifted to a more pro-Israel stance, including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017.

Writing in The Guardian on Monday, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Europe could strengthen its role in the peace process if it recognized Palestine.

“European recognition of this state is not only a European responsibility but a concrete way to move towards a just and lasting peace,” he said.

Only nine out of the 28 EU countries have so far recognized Palestine as a state, compared to 138 out of the 193 UN member states.

In 2011, the UK’s then-Foreign Minister William Hague said the British government “reserves the right” to recognize Palestine “at a time of our own choosing, and when it can best serve the cause of peace.”

In 2012, the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status to that of “nonmember observer state.”