U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian as the U.S. administration is pressing ahead with efforts to convince European allies to address “flaws” in Iran's nuclear deal with world powers.
Ahead of the meeting in Paris, the second leg of Tillerson’s weeklong trip to Europe, Le Drian insisted that signatories to the landmark 2015 accord curbing Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief “must stand by their word."
"There is a basic principle on which we are very firm. It's the upholding of the [deal] to the extent it is respected," the French minister said, noting that the UN nuclear watchdog has said Tehran is in compliance.
After meeting with top British officials in London on January 22, Tillerson voiced cautious optimism about getting European backing.
U.S. President Donald Trump said earlier this month that he wanted to work with European allies and Congress to fix what he called "disastrous flaws" in the nuclear accord signed under his predecessor, Barack Obama.
Trump warned that Washington would withdraw from the deal curbing Iran's nuclear program in exchange for the easing of international sanctions if the terms of the agreement are not strengthened within four months.
Tehran has ruled out any changes in the agreement, while the other signatories -- Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia -- have closed ranks in support of the accord.
But after meeting in London with British Prime Minister Theresa May, national security adviser Mark Sedwill, and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Tillerson said on January 22 that the United States, Britain, France, and Germany had a "common view that there are some areas of the [agreement] or some areas of Iran's behavior that should be addressed."
He said that the four countries agreed to set up a working group of experts that would look at "some type of another side agreement perhaps or a mechanism that would address our concerns," the secretary of state said, citing Iran's ballistic-missile program, which is not covered by the nuclear accord, and provisions in the deal that allow Iran to gradually resume advanced atomic work.
Johnson said that Britain was committed to doing what it could with its partners "collectively to constrain that activity."
However, he insisted that "it is important that we do that in parallel and don't vitiate the fundamentals of the Iran nuclear deal."
Pressuring Iran On Missiles
Speaking after he arrived at a European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on January 22, France's foreign minister said his counterparts would reiterate their concerns over Iran's activities in Yemen, Lebanon, and Syria, which he described as destabilizing.
"We will also have the opportunity of underlining our firmness on Iran's compliance with United Nations Resolution 2231, which limits access to ballistic capacity and which Iran does not respect," Le Drian said.
Meanwhile, the German government appealed to Tehran to join European powers and the United States in talks, citing concerns about the missile program and Iran's regional activities.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr said that German, French, and EU officials would launch high-level talks about their concerns.
During a visit to Jerusalem, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence reiterated Trump’s warning that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal if European allies don’t join Washington to address flawed parts of the accord.
"At the end of the day, this is going to be a moment where the European community has to decide whether they want to go forward with the United States or whether they want to stay in this deeply flawed deal with Iran," Pence said on January 23.
After the French capital, Tillerson will spend two days in Davos shadowing Trump at his first visit as president to the annual economic forum.
By January 26, he will be in Poland for more talks with senior officials on security and economic matters.