EU has asked Iranian foreign minister for talks in effort to preserve nuclear deal
The EU has called Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for a meeting on Thursday in Brussels with his French, British and German counterparts in efforts to preserve the hard-fought deal to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
The meeting between Zarif and the three European parties to the landmark 2015 agreement comes after Iran warned the world on Monday to prepare for the withdrawal of the United States.
The meeting comes against a backdrop of high political tension in Iran following recent protests which claimed 21 lives, though Zarif has dismissed the idea that the protests are part of the agenda.
Iran signed the accord with six world powers, agreeing to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of many international sanctions, but US President Donald Trump has condemned the deal and threatened to pull out.
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Trump has kept the unrest in Iran in the global spotlight by tweeting his support for protesters almost daily since demonstrations began in late December, although he has stopped short of calling for regime change.
"The EU high representative Federica Mogherini will convene a meeting with ministers of foreign affairs of E3 countries - France, Jean-Yves Le Drian, Germany, Sigmar Gabriel, and the UK Boris Johnson - and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Thursday 11 January in Brussels," the 28-member bloc said in a statement.
"The meeting will take place in the context of the ongoing work to ensure a full and continued implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action," the statement added, using the official name for the deal.
The EU, which played an important role in brokering the Iran nuclear deal, has been lobbying US lawmakers not to pull out and so far Trump has continued to waive nuclear-related sanctions at regular intervals as required under the agreement.
Last week, the US Treasury Department sanctioned five Iranian companies related to the country's ballistic missile programme. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin linked the measure to recent anti-government protests, arguing that Iran ought to spend more on public welfare rather than banned weapons.
"These sanctions target key entities involved in Iran's ballistic missile programme, which the Iranian regime prioritises over the economic well-being of the Iranian people," Mnuchin said.
"As the Iranian people suffer, their government and the IRGC fund foreign militants, terrorist groups, and human rights abuses," he added.