The United States and European powers are negotiating over a possible "supplemental" agreement to the Iran nuclear deal that would address Iran's ballistic-missile development and involvement in Middle East conflicts, a U.S. diplomat said.
U.S. envoy Brian Hook said the allies had "very good" talks about a "supplemental" accord in Vienna on March 16 as Reuters reported that Britain, France, and Germany have proposed new European Union sanctions against Iran over its ballistic-missile program and its role in the Syrian civil war.
Hook said U.S. President Donald Trump wants to reach a side agreement with the three European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal to address the missile program and Iran's interventions in conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
Trump also wants the side deal to correct what he has called "disastrous flaws" in the nuclear agreement, in particular its limits on inspections of potential Iranian nuclear sites by a UN watchdog, and the scheduled expiration of some of the key curbs on Iranian nuclear activities such as uranium enrichment after 10 years under the deal.
"In order for the United States to remain in the deal, the United States and Europe must come to an agreement to address sunsets, inspections, and long-range ballistic missiles," Hook said.
"We are taking things one week at a time. We are having very good discussions" he said. "There is a lot we agree on, and where we disagree we are working to bridge our differences."
Hook said Trump has asked the negotiators to come up with an agreement by May 12, when the president must decide whether to once again extend U.S. sanctions relief to Iran as required under the nuclear deal in exchange for the curbs on Iran's nuclear activities.
Hook said the U.S. goal in pushing for curbs on Tehran's involvement in regional conflicts is "to bring about a change in the behavior of the Iranian regime."
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqhchi, who attended a separate meeting of signatories to the nuclear deal in Vienna on March 16, said that Tehran strongly objects to the changes sought by Trump.
"We made clear that in our eyes, the blocking and constant ultimatums by the U.S. are a clear violation of the deal," he said.
Araqhchi said Iran will not agree to renegotiate the nuclear provisions of the treaty, but he indicated that Tehran may be willing to hold discussions about missiles and regional conflicts if it feels that the nuclear pact is being fully implemented.
A Russian diplomat at the Vienna meeting on March 16 on the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, said no "supplemental" accord is needed, but Moscow would not object if U.S. and European powers reach a side agreement that has no impact on the 2015 deal.
"The way I see it, Western countries are alarmed by the Iranian missile program, and they are seeking to push it into the framework they would find suitable," Russian envoy Mikhail Ulyanov was quoted as saying by state-run TASS news agency.
"If all the parties concerned suddenly develop a wish to make some additional agreements, which would not be immediately linked to the plan of action and would not be detrimental to it, this will be a matter of their political will and preparedness. But still we think there's no need for whatever supplementary agreements today," he said.
European powers are negotiating with Washington over a possible side deal in an effort to address concerns raised by Trump and prevent him from making good on his threats to withdraw from the nuclear deal.
Meanwhile, Reuters on March 16 reported that new EU sanctions proposed by Britain, Germany, and France are also aimed at satisfying Trump's demands and keeping him “committed” to the nuclear deal.
Reuters, citing two people familiar with the matter, said a document outlining the proposal was sent to EU capitals on March 16 to measure the level of support for fresh sanctions. According to EU rules, all 28 members must agree to any such sanctions.
The document said the new sanctions would be targeted against individuals and organizations involved with Tehran's ballistic-missile development and its role in supporting Syria's government in a seven-year civil war with Sunni rebels.
Reuters said the document mentions that Britain, France, and Germany are involved in "intensive talks" with the Trump administration to "achieve a clear and lasting reaffirmation of U.S. support for the [nuclear] agreement beyond May 12."
The document suggested the new sanctions would "target militias and commanders" and build on the bloc’s existing sanctions related to Syria, which include travel bans, asset freezes, and a ban on conducting business with public or private companies.