NEW YORK – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani questioned on Thursday European countries’ willingness to salvage the 2015 nuclear agreement (JCPOA) and said that if the situation does not change the Islamic nation will continue to scale back its obligations under that deal.
In a news conference on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Rouhani accused Europe of not living up to its promises to safeguard the accord following the withdrawal of the United States.
He said that if the Europeans do not uphold their end of the bargain then Iran will go beyond the nuclear activities it has already announced this year and further unwind its commitments.
“Following the unilateral exit of the United States of America from the JCPOA, the remaining parties (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany) held meetings at different levels and promised us that they would be able to make up for the exit of the United States from the deal.”
But according to Rouhani, who said none of the financial alternatives proposed by the European Union for evading the US sanctions have worked, “unfortunately, when it comes to actions, Europe has demonstrated its inability or lack of willingness.”
“Or perhaps it wishes to not pay anything for the agreement that it is a part of because maybe it emanates from a mentality that says I wish to stay in this multilateral agreement but I wish to put all of the costs and the burdens on the shoulder of Iran.”
Even so, the Iranian leader said talks are continuing and expressed confidence that new agreements can be forged to salvage the nuclear deal that Tehran reached with the UN Security Council’s five permanent members and Germany following years of negotiations.
Since May, Iran has been gradually violating the JCPOA to exert pressure on European countries to guarantee the economic advantages set out in the agreement.
First of all, Iran began to accumulate more enriched uranium than it was allowed to (300 kilograms), and then it exceeded the purity of enriched uranium set out in the deal.
On Thursday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran has violated the JCPOA again by accumulating enriched uranium at facilities in Natanz.
IAEA inspectors verified on Wednesday that advanced Research and Development (R+D) centrifuges “were accumulating, or had been prepared to accumulate, enriched uranium,” the agency said in a report.
US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the agreement in 2018. He justified the action by claiming that Iran had not respected the JCPOA, despite 11 separate reports from the IAEA verifying that Tehran was in compliance.
In conjunction with that move, his administration reimposed harsh sanctions as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign aimed chiefly at choking off Iranian oil sales.
As he had made clear a day earlier in a speech to the annual UN General Assembly, Rouhani said Thursday his government will not negotiate with the US while the sanctions are in place.
“If we reach a time when these pre-conditions are taken off the table, of course the possibility exists to talk with America,” he added.
Asked about France’s efforts to push for a meeting between him and Trump, Rouhani said French President Emmanuel Macron has spent months seeking a solution and that the conversations have continued this week at the UN.
He added, however, that no progress has been made.
The Iranian leader also responded to Western accusations that his country was behind the Sept. 14 drone and missile attacks on Saudi oil facilities, saying that Iran had nothing to do them.
He added that those making those allegations have the burden of providing proof.
This week, Germany, France and the UK joined the US and Saudi Arabia in blaming Iran for the attack, an issue that Rouhani said he brought up in his meetings with the leaders of those countries.
The Iranian president said none of those nations have presented any evidence of his country’s involvement and merely said that Yemen’s Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels – who claimed responsibility for those attacks as part of their civil war against Saudi-backed forces – did not have the capability to perpetrate the action.
Rouhani said the European powers have out-of-date information regarding the Houthis, adding that the Yemeni rebels had previously used long-range missiles and drones in other similar actions.