The foreign ministers of France, Germany and the United Kingdom issued a joint statement on Tuesday expressing “grave concern” over an IAEA report confirming that Iran has begun enriching uranium metal.

In its report, released earlier on Tuesday, the IAEA stated: “Today, Iran informed the Agency that UO2 (uranium oxide) enriched up to 20% U-235 would be shipped to the R&D laboratory at the Fuel Fabrication Plant in Esfahan, where it would be converted to UF4 (uranium tetrafluoride) and then to uranium metal enriched to 20% U-235, before using it to manufacture the fuel,” according to Reuters.

The European diplomats said that the development constituted “a serious violation” of Iran’s commitments under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal.

“Iran has no credible civilian need for uranium metal R&D and production, which are a key step in the development of a nuclear weapon,” said the statement.

This violation of the JCPOA, another in a long series of violations, is “all the more concerning,” aid the foreign ministers, as no date has been set for the next round of the nuclear talks in Vienna with regard to a return to the 2015 deal.

Moreover, they added, Iran has “significantly” limited IAEA access to its nuclear sites via withdrawal from the monitoring arrangements contained in the JCPOA and ceasing application of the Additional Protocol.

“We strongly urge Iran to halt all activities in violation of the JCPOA without delay and to return to the negotiations in Vienna with a view to bringing them to a swift conclusion. We have repeatedly stressed that time is on no one’s side. With its latest steps, Iran is threatening a successful outcome to the Vienna talks despite the progress achieved in six rounds of negotiations to date,” they said.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that while Washington was not setting a deadline for the talks, “as time proceeds Iran’s nuclear advances will have a bearing on our view of returning to the JCPOA,” Reuters reported.

The United States found it “worrying” that Iran was continuing to violate the JCPOA, “especially with experiments that have value for nuclear weapons research,” he said. “It’s another unfortunate step backwards for Iran.”


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