Borrell: US ending nuclear waivers means harder to check Iran

File photo. A general view of the nuclear power plant in Bushehr, southern Iran, 21 August 2010. [Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA/EFE]

The European Union’s foreign policy chief on Thursday (28 May) condemned Washington’s move to end sanction waivers for countries remaining in the Iran nuclear accord, warning it would make it harder to keep Tehran in check.

Donald Trump’s administration announced Wednesday that it was ending the waivers because of a series of “escalatory actions” by Iran aimed at pressuring the United States, which pulled out of the accord in 2018.

The sanctions waivers have allowed foreign companies to do some work at Iranian nuclear sites. They have covered the conversion of Iran’s Arak heavy water research reactor, the provision of enriched uranium for its Tehran Research Reactor and the transfer of spent and scrap reactor fuel abroad.

Reacting to the US announcement, the EU’s Josep Borrell highlighted the “enduring importance” of the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), because it was vital to ensuring that Iran’s nuclear activities remain above board.

“The agreement remains the best and only way to ensure the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear programme,” Borrell told a United Nations Security Council meeting on Europe-UN relations.

“This is why I regret yesterday’s decision by the US not to prolong the waivers for the JCPOA-related nuclear projects.

“This will make it more difficult for the international community to ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.”

Iran has taken small steps away from its nuclear commitments in a bid to get Washington to remove sanctions as called for by the 2015 accord.

Trump quit the agreement negotiated under his predecessor Barack Obama, under which Iran had drastically curbed its nuclear activities.

But the Trump administration until now had issued waivers to allow companies, primarily from Russia, to keep carrying out the work of the agreement without risking legal ramifications in the world’s largest economy.

Iran’s UN ambassador said that with the end of waivers, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was pulling the “final plug” on the nuclear deal two years after Trump withdrew the US from it.

“Claiming US is STILL ‘Participant’ is not just preposterous; it’s FALSE,” the envoy Majid Takht Ravanchi tweeted.

The envoy was referring to Washington’s claim that it remains a participant in the deal, despite renouncing it, and can push to extend an arms embargo on Iran due to begin expiring in October.

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