BRUSSELS —European Union Foreign Ministers on Monday expressed concern about the risk of a military conflict between the U.S. and Iran.
Iran last week announced it was suspending some of its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 nuclear agreement signed with world powers, year after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord and imposed swingeing sanctions on the Islamic republic. Tehran said it would resume high-level enrichment of uranium if world powers do not keep their promises under the deal, as well as protect Iran’s oil and banking sectors from U.S. sanctions.
Tensions have raised after the US increased its military presence in the Gulf.
On Monday US President Donald Trump warned that Iran would “suffer greatly” were it to “do anything,” after US intelligence suggested Tehran was planning to attack US interests in the region.
During a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Brussels, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident, with an escalation that is unintended really on either side but ends with some kind of conflict. What we need is a period of calm to make sure that everyone understands what the other side is thinking.’’
Britain, along with Germany, France and the EU were among the signatories of the nuclear agreement with Iran.
“We are living in a crucial, delicate moment where the most relevant and responsible attitude to take is that of maximum restraint and avoiding any escalation on a military side,” stressed EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini following the monthly Foreign Affairs Council on Monday.
She added : “As European Union […] we always encourage dialogue and diplomatic engagement. It has always been our commitment.”
The message was conveyed to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who made a stop in Brussels en route to Moscow to meet the EU officials.
Mogherini reiterated the EU’s support for the nuclear deal with Iran and its full implementation and called for Iran to comply with all its nuclear commitments. “We will continue to support it as much as we can with all our instruments and all our political will. This is very well known, both in Washington and in Tehran,” Mogherini told a press conference.
It is the work on the nuclear deal that allows the EU and Iran to discuss also regional developments, she said. “On some of the issues, we have very serious differences and divergences. Dialogue however still remains he only and best way to address differences and avoid escalation in the region,’’ she added.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said his country “still regards this nuclear agreement as the basis for Iran not having any nuclear weapons in the future and we regard this as existential for our security”.
The Foreign Ministers of France, Germany and the UK, and Mogherini also met to discuss the ways in which the EU can further advance on the operationalisation of Instex, a payment mechanism with Iran they set up to help continue trade with this country and circumvent US sanctions. Washington has cautioned EU nations against such action.