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‘Last chance’ to save nuclear deal at Vienna meeting, Iran warns

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Friday’s meeting in Vienna among the remaining signatories of the embattled nuclear deal may be the “last chance” to save the historic accord, Iran warned.

In comments carried by Iran’s Fars news agency, foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said the gathering in Austria’s capital was an opportunity to see how those still party to the 2015 agreement could “meet their commitments towards Iran”.

Concerns abound the deal will collapse after the United States unilaterally withdrew from the accord a year ago and reimposed punishing sanctions on Iran. Fears remain that an Iran-US conflict could break out after an American drone was shot down last week, and US President Donald Trump called off retaliatory strikes at the last minute.

Mousavi said despite supporting Iran in several statements, the remaining signatories – the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China and Russia – failed to take any action to shield its faltering economy from US sanctions.

Tehran has threatened to breach the limit of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium mandated under the deal in retaliation to the US approach, which has also seen Trump attempt to choke Iranian oil exports amid a spiralling war of words between Washington and Tehran over multiple flashpoints in the Middle East.

Iran is expected to surpass that limit in days.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, who is in Vienna, said Iran has run out of “strategic patience”, adding it won’t remain “unilaterally committed to the nuclear deal”.

Araqchi said he hoped the Vienna meeting could lead to “tangible” action, Fars news agency reported.

‘We want to sell our oil’
An Iranian official, speaking on condition of anonymity to Reuters news agency, said Tehran’s main concern was oil sales.

“What is our demand? Our demand is to be able to sell our oil and get the money back. And this is in fact the minimum of our benefit from the deal,” the official said. “We are not asking the Europeans to invest in Iran … We only want to sell our oil.”

Iran’s crude exports dropped to about 300,000 barrels a day (bpd) in the first three weeks of June, according to industry sources, from above 2.5 million bpd in April 2018 before Trump quit the accord.

Amid falling revenues and in a bid to rescue the deal, Iran’s European partners are expected to announce the creation of a multimillion-dollar credit line to Tehran at the Vienna summit.

The measure is aimed at keeping economic ties between European governments and Tehran alive by kickstarting a trading mechanism known as INSTEX – Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges – that is designed to enable barter trade between Iran and the West, unnamed officials told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.

INSTEX is not yet operational and diplomats have said it will only be able to handle small volumes of items such as medicine – not the large oil sales Iran is seeking.

“We should see how much money can be transferred via INSTEX,” Mousavi said. “If it’s an artificial mechanism, Iran will surely not accept it.”

Iran-Germany trade plummets
European allies who support the nuclear deal say Trump’s decision to quit the accord was a mistake that has strengthened Iran’s hardline faction, weakened its pragmatists, and raised the prospect of open conflict in the Middle East.

Data published on Friday by Germany’s Funke media group showed trade between Germany and Iran has collapsed under the impact of the US sanctions, supporting Iran’s assertion that Europe is failing to help preserve the nuclear non-proliferation deal.

Figures from the German Chamber of Commerce showed trade volumes between Iran and the continent’s largest economy were down 49 percent over the first four months of this year, compared with the same period in 2018, with volumes continually declining.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he would try to convince Trump to suspend some sanctions on Iran to allow for negotiations to help defuse the crisis.

The pair are expected to hold talks at the ongoing annual summit of the Group of 20 (G20) nations in Osaka, Japan.

[source:  Al Jazeera]
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