(September 2, 2018 / European Jewish Press) VIENNA —The Iran nuclear agreement and Middle East stability are on top of the agenda of an informal meeting of European Union Foreign Ministers hosted on Thursday by the Austrian E.U. presidency in Vienna.
In remarks before the meeting, E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the ministers would “exchange views on the work we are doing to preserve the Iran nuclear deal that was reached after long negotiations here in Vienna, so we have to keep the Vienna spirit.”
“The agreement is working, it is a challenging exercise to keep the agreement in place with the re-imposition of the U.S. sanctions, but we are working together, including with Austria, with all our Member States, with all our partners around the world, to make sure that this continues to be the case,” she said.
She added that it is “vital to avoid that Iran develops a nuclear weapon and for once that we have a functioning non-proliferation agreement, we should give backing to it.”
The meetings coincide with publication of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s quarterly Iran inspections report, which is due by Friday.
The U.S. decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in 2015 between Tehran and world powers in and top reimpose sanctions on Iran have raised pressure on E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who helped seal negotiations over the agreement and still coordinates its dispute-resolution mechanism.
The U.S. State Department last week slammed E.U. attempts to maintain relations with Iran as the E.U. Commission announced an 18 million euro ($21 million) E.U. package to promote trade with Iranian small businesses. It “sends the wrong message” by supporting the Islamic Republic’s government, said Washington.
“They continue to be the single biggest destabilizing element in the Middle East,” U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said on Tuesday.
The efforts by the European Union to preserve the nuclear deal, also led by the three European architects of the accord—France, Germany and the United Kingdom—puts the United States in direct conflict with its largest and most powerful NATO allies. It represents the sharpest break between Washington and its European partners on foreign policy since Trump took office.
Observers are questioning whether the interests of America and Europe have now truly diverged. On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron said the E.U. can no longer rely on the United States for its security and must pursue its own security policy to protect its interests.