The Russian and German foreign ministers say they are working to salvage a landmark nuclear agreement with Iran after President Donald Trump announced that the United States would leave the deal and would reinstate sanctions on Tehran.
Sergei Lavrov, speaking after meeting Heiko Maas on May 10 in Moscow, said it was important that any new U.S. sanctions did not ruin the 2015 accord between Tehran and six world powers, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
"Without doubt we will make sure firstly that this does not destroy the JCPOA. This is our common objective," Lavrov said at a joint news conference with Maas. The JCPOA provides Tehran with relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
Lavrov added that Russia, Germany, China, Britain, and France -- the remaining participants in the agreement -- must work to "enable the preservation of this important document for regional stability."
Maas said it was essential for Iran to stick to its obligations under the accord despite Trump's move to slap fresh sanctions on Tehran, and called on Russia to use its influence on Tehran in that respect.
"It is necessary that Iran stays in the agreement. It is in Iran's interest, too, to keep the agreement alive," Maas said.
Maas said Germany was looking for more information from Washington about the punitive measures it was considering.
"It is important to learn about the rules concerning the so-called secondary effects, that is, what does it mean for a European company's America business if it continues to do business with Iran," Maas said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a phone call with Iranian President Hassan Rohani that her country would adhere to the 2015 nuclear deal.
But government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Merkel told Rohani that Tehran must continue to fulfill its obligations under the plan and condemned Iran's rocket attacks on Israeli military positions on the Golan Heights early on May 10.
Renewed U.S. sanctions are expected to hit hard on Iran's oil sector, with analysts estimating Iran's nearly 4 million barrels of daily oil production could be cut by 200,000 barrels to 600,000 barrels a day.
In what appeared to be a separate action, the U.S. Treasury Department announced fresh sanctions on May 10 against three entities and six Iranian individuals linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
The Treasury Department said the action, taken in cooperation with the United Arab Emirates, broke up an "extensive currency exchange network" used to help fund the IRGC and its foreign arm, the Qods Force, in their “malign activities and regional proxy groups."
Meanwhile, China has also said it remains committed to the deal and assured Tehran that it will continue buying nearly one-third of Iranian oil exports.
"We express regret over this decision made by the United States," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on May 9. He said that China wants to "ensure the integrity and sanctity" of a pact that Beijing believes was important for curbing nuclear proliferation and promoting stability in the Middle East.
Geng said that China, which has for years been a close economic partner with Iran, will "carry on the normal and transparent pragmatic cooperation with Iran on the basis of not violating our international obligation."
China's Xinhua News Agency also reported on May 9 that China's special envoy for the Middle East, Gong Xiaosheng, said after meeting with Iranian officials that the multilateral deal is "very serious and important."
"Having a deal is better than no deal. Dialogue is better than confrontation," he said.
China buys the largest share of Iranian oil, and most of the rest is sold to the other top Asian consumers, Japan and South Korea, which have also indicated that they will continue business with Iran despite the U.S. decision.
China's comments came as oil prices hit their highest levels in world markets since November 2014 as investors reacted to Trump's move to withdraw from the pact. Premium crude prices ended over $77 a barrel in London trading on May 9.