Berlin (CNSNews.com) – As Iran marks the second anniversary of implementation of the nuclear deal, Germany is reportedly mulling further sanctions on Tehran, in an apparent bid to show the U.S. that European allies are taking President Trump’s pressure over the controversial agreement seriously.
According to a report in Spiegel, German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr said German, France and E.U. officials plan to launch high-level talks about their concerns over Iran’s ballistic missile program and “regional activities” – likely a reference in part to Iran’s role in civil wars in Syria and Yemen.
“There’s a lot to discuss, and we are now tackling that,” Reuters quoted Adebahr as saying on Monday.
The U.S. has been pushing the E.U. to adopt a supplemental agreement that increases the scope of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), including limits on ballistic missile development and greater access for inspections.
“This is a last chance,” Trump said earlier this month as he waived sanctions against Iran for what he said was the last time. In a message directed at European allies and the U.S. Congress, he said, “Either fix the deal’s disastrous flaws, or the United States will withdraw.”
But Juergen Hardt, foreign policy spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative party in parliament, dismissed the Spiegel report and suggestions the Europeans were acting under U.S. pressure as “speculation,” and warned that new sanctions would push Tehran to cease honoring the nuclear deal.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a meeting of E.U. foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday that Iran was not adhering to U.N. Security Council resolution 2231 – the 2015 resolution that endorsed the JCPOA, and included a provision saying Iran was “called upon” not to develop or launch ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
According to a report by geopolitical intelligence platform Stratfor, Le Drian has disclosed that France has already began discussions with Iran over the matter.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi denied that Iran had held any such talks with the French.
On Monday, E.U. officials visited Tehran for a third round of bilateral talks on the JCPOA. Parties to the deal with Iran, which took effect in early 2016, are the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany.
The second anniversary of JCPOA “implementation day” has been overshadowed by fears that Trump will terminate the deal – and by unease over the Iranian regime’s violent crackdown on street protests that erupted in late December.
At least 23 people were killed during the protests, and some 3,700 detained. Anti-regime demonstrations were also held in European cities, including Berlin, Paris, Stockholm and London.
The E.U.’s response to the crackdown has drawn criticism from some quarters, not least after the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee invited hardline Iranian lawmaker Alaeddin Boroujerdi for an “exchange of views” over two days this week.
On Wednesday Maryam Rajavi, leader of the exiled Iranian opposition group National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) urged European governments to adopt a tougher stance in response to the violence, and to take active steps to compel Iran to release those detained.
“Expressing concern is not enough,” she said during a visit to the 47-member Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), in Strasbourg, France. “Europe’s inaction sends the wrong signal to the brutal dictatorship in Iran that it can continue its crimes against the Iranian people with impunity.”
“The international community in general and Europe in particular must end their silence and inaction.”
(PACE is a body of lawmakers from national parliaments of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, a grouping formed in the aftermath of World War II and distinct from the European Union. It meets four times a year in Strasbourg.)
Since the JCPOA was finalized, Germany has moved towards a normalization of relations with Iran, and benefited from closer business ties. German exports to Iran grew by 27 percent between 2015 and 2016, and by 19 percent between 2016 and 2017, reaching just under 2.4 billion euros ($2.9 billion) in export volume in the latter period.