LONDON: Britain, France and Germany on Wednesday condemned Iran’s enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity and urged Tehran to reverse its nuclear program.
Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear development in return for eased sanctions, the country was permitted to reach enrichment levels of 3.67 percent.
Tehran first breached this restriction in 2018 after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement, and last week UN inspectors confirmed that Iran had begun enriching to 20 percent at its Fordow nuclear plant.
“This action, which has no credible civil justification and carries very significant proliferation-related risks, is in clear violation of Iran’s commitments under the JCPOA and further hollows out the agreement,” the three European countries said.
They described the enrichment as a “serious negative development” that undermined the commitment by JCPOA signatories to preserve the agreement and “also risks compromising the important opportunity for a return to diplomacy with the incoming US administration.”
They said: “We strongly urge Iran to stop enriching uranium to up to 20 percent without delay, reverse its enrichment program to the limits agreed in the JCPOA and to refrain from any further escalatory steps which would further reduce the space for effective diplomacy.”
Kyle Orton, an independent geopolitical analyst, told Arab News the joint message from Britain, France and Germany was “a reaffirmation of their commitment to the JCPOA and is clearly aimed in significant part at the incoming administration under Joe Biden, hoping it will resume adherence to the JCPOA, which they view as the best strategy for dealing with the nuclear issue.”
The enhanced enrichment by Tehran was also aimed at Washington, Orton said. “The Iranians announcing the shift to enriching at 20 percent is probably a preparatory step for the resumption of diplomatic engagement under a Biden administration, rather than a serious effort to construct a nuclear weapon.”
However, with geopolitical tension in the background, European hopes of a revival of the JCPOA were looking increasingly unlikely to be realized, Orton said. “The environment in which that treaty was written is totally different to the present circumstances, which renders it nearly obsolete,” he said. “It seems unlikely that the deal can be revived and most of its provisions lapse soon anyway.”
Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian affairs expert and Harvard scholar, said the EU’s move is a positive step but does not go far enough, particularly if the EU continues to support the JCPOA.
“Tehran is benefiting from the disunity in European and US policy and, if the EU does not impose sanctions on Iran, we can expect more nuclear defiance over the coming months and years,” he said. “If the EU does not impose sanctions on Iran, we can expect more nuclear defiance over the coming months and years. A united front, comprising joint sanctions, would send a clear message and engender an economic stranglehold that would force Tehran to concentrate on its domestic agenda.”