KETR

European Leaders Discuss How To Preserve Iran Nuclear Deal

May 15, 2018
Originally published on May 16, 2018 12:24 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

All right, now to diplomacy in Brussels. That is where the EU's chief diplomat met today with the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, also Iran's foreign minister. They want to save the Iran nuclear deal that President Trump pulled out of last week, although the meeting took place just hours after the U.S. government imposed new sanctions on the head of Iran's central bank. To hear what came out of today's meeting, we are joined by NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, who is covering this story from her base in Berlin. Hey, Soraya.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Hey, so what's the top line? What did the European and Iranian foreign ministers decide today?

NELSON: Well, all of them decided that they remain firmly committed to this nuclear deal. But at the same time, they didn't really come up with any guarantees or immediate plan of action. Instead, the EU's chief diplomat, Federica Mogherini, says that EU experts are going to start intensive discussions with Iran to address its concerns about making sure that the economic benefits, for example, maintaining and deepening business and banking ties, that that becomes more solid and also the continued sale of Iranian oil and gas. And Mogherini said she was particularly impressed with how all sides at the meeting set aside their differences to come up with ideas on how to save the deal.

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FEDERICA MOGHERINI: If I can use the metaphor that some raised around the table, we all have a relative in intensive care and we all want to get him or her out of the intensive care as soon as possible.

NELSON: She also said that the 28 European leaders that are meeting in Bulgaria tomorrow are going to talk about a possible blocking regulation that would ban European companies from observing some of the American sanctions.

KELLY: I want to ask about those sanctions in a second, but first, let me ask this - did the diplomats meeting today take up any of the concerns that the White House has cited in pulling out of the deal, concerns about Iran's wider activities in the Middle East, its ballistic missile program for example?

NELSON: No. It didn't actually, even though you have the British, German and French leaders and officials talking about - basically as a nod to the White House talking about these issues and saying that there have to be broader restrictions placed on Iran if it doesn't because there are concerns about this activity, they didn't want to do this tonight. They felt it was muddying the waters. And they also have to be careful because there are a lot of issues that Europe is not agreeing with President Trump about right now, in particular punitive tariffs on steel and aluminum, which of course - I'm sorry, steel and aluminum from Europe...

KELLY: Right.

NELSON: ...The tariffs for which could be imposed as early as next month.

KELLY: All right. Now, what about these sanctions? What are Europeans - and I suppose I'm particularly curious - what are European business leaders saying about these U.S. sanctions?

NELSON: Well, they are not happy at all. And they're putting a lot of pressure on their leaders to deal with it. I mean, we're talking about, with Iran, for example, $12 billion worth of business that's being done a year just with European businesses. Volker Treier is vice president of the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

VOLKER TREIER: We do want to make our contribution in order to develop the whole region economically. But without that deal, that's really a big, big hurdle, and there are many challenges in front of us.

NELSON: But even if the Europeans, Iranians and the others who are involved in these business deals continue with the economic trade that's going on, companies that are doing business both in the U.S. and Iran aren't likely to want to risk U.S. sanctions.

KELLY: And briefly, Soraya, where is the U.S. expected to land on what Europeans and the Iranians discussed today, that they want to stay in the nuclear deal?

NELSON: Well, I don't think that they're going to be very happy just based on some of the comments that have come out because while the secretary of state on Sunday talked about trying to come up with a deal that makes everyone happy, I mean, there are certainly others like the national security adviser, John Bolton, who said, no, they are going to act if people violate what the U.S. plans are with regards to sanctions.

KELLY: Taking a much harder line. That's NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reporting from Berlin. Thanks, Soraya.

NELSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.