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Remaining signatories of Iran nuclear deal to meet in bid to save accord

From left, Head of Mission of People's Republic of China to the European Union Hailong Wu, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarifat, an unidentified Russian official, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond. (U.S. State Department/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The remaining signatories to the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal plan to meet next week in an effort to save the accord, the European Union says.

In a statement on June 20, the EU said senior officials from Iran, France, Germany, Britain, China, and Russia will meet on June 28 in Vienna to discuss the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The officials will look at ways to “tackle challenges arising from the withdrawal and reimposition of sanctions by the United States on Iran,” the EU said.

“The meeting has been called with the intention of ensuring the continued implementation of the JCPOA in all its aspects and discuss ways to tackle challenges arising from the withdrawal and reimposition of sanctions by the United States on Iran, as well as recent announcements by Iran regarding the implementation of its nuclear commitments,” the EU said.

U.S. President Donald Trump in May 2018 announced his decision to quit the deal, which provided Tehran with relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program. He began reimposing sanctions against Iran, specifically targeting its banking sector and energy industry.

Trump said the terms of the deal were not strict enough to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and that Tehran had violated the “spirit” of the accord by supporting extremist violence in the region — a charge Iran has denied.

Iran last month said it would reduce compliance with the terms of the deal in protest against the U.S. withdrawal.

This week, Tehran announced it was starting a 10-day countdown to surpass the deal’s limit on its enriched-uranium stockpile, saying it would exceed the 300-kilogram restriction by June 27.

The EU’s foreign-policy chief, Federica Mogherini — who helped seal the deal with Iran — said on June 20 that it was “important for us to keep Iran fully compliant with its commitments.”

She also said she would strive to ease tensions between Tehran and Washington “to make sure that an escalation is avoided” amid the latest flareup of accusations between the two.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) early on June 20 said it had shot down a U.S. “spy” drone that had turned off its tracking equipment as it flew over the southern province of Hormozgan — saying the flight was a clear crossing of “our red line.”

However, the U.S. military says the pilotless surveillance aircraft was over the Strait of Hormuz in international waters when it was shot down.

The so-called E3 nations — Britain, France, and Germany, all U.S. allies — had urged Washington to remain a part of the 2015 deal, saying it was the best way to monitor Iranian nuclear activities and prevent it from developing nuclear arms