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European powers meeting to discuss Iran Nuclear Deal after Tehran’s latest breach

Iran's Natanz nuclear facility (Hamed Saber/WikiCommons)

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

The German government says the foreign ministers of Britain, France, and Germany are meeting in Berlin on November 23 for talks focusing on the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, days after the UN’s atomic watchdog said Tehran had again breached the agreement.

“Together with our partners, we strongly call on Iran to stop violating the deal and return to fulfilling all its nuclear obligations completely,” a German government spokeswoman said on November 23.

The meeting between German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and his British and French counterparts, Dominic Raab and Jean-Yves Le Drian, comes after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on November 18 that centrifuges in a buried part of Iran’s main uranium-enrichment site at Natanz were now operational.

The nuclear deal with world powers states that Iran can only accumulate enriched uranium with first-generation IR-1 machines and that those are the only centrifuges it can operate at its underground plant at Natanz, apparently built to withstand aerial bombardment.

But the United States withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions against Iran. In response, Iran, questioning whether the accord still holds, has breached many restrictions imposed by the deal to curb its atomic activities, including on the purity to which it enriches uranium and its stock of enriched uranium.

Other signatories to the agreement — Russia, France, Great Britain, China, and the European Union — insist the agreement is still valid and have urged Tehran to adhere to it.

Iranian officials have complained that the country is not benefiting economically from the agreement, under which the country significantly limited its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on November 17 said Tehran would be willing to return to full compliance with the deal if U.S. President-elect Joe Biden lifts U.S. sanctions against the country.

Biden has said he would work with the other powers involved to amend aspects of the agreement once Iran is back in compliance.