European signatories to the nuclear non proliferation agreement with Iran, termed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) have been repeating their commitment to the deal since Trump’s withdrawal in May. However, up until now, no concrete measures have materialized which demonstrate the European resolve to ensure that the economic benefits to Iran of sticking with the deal. Meanwhile, Iran has been declaring that they are not going to remain with the JCPOA and will return to their enrichment programs if Europe doesn’t come through.
The need is great, therefore, for Europe and Iran to come to some sort of agreement with concrete implications about how to save the agreement and guarantee European economic cooperation with the Persian nation. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is set to make a trip to Switzerland and Austria in order to establish these goals as well as to discuss matters in the Middle East relative to Syria and Yemen.
President Hassan Rouhani has begun a crucial visit to Europe, where he is expected to discuss the fate of a nuclear agreement from which US President Donald Trump withdrew in May.
Rouhani is to discuss boosting Tehran’s ties with Europe which has been scrambling to save the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) but struggled to provide Iran with concrete guarantees to benefit from staying in the nuclear deal.
“Now that the Americans have exited the JCPOA in breach of international rules and their multi-lateral commitments, communication and negotiation with Europe enjoys a special position,” Rouhani told reporters in Tehran before heading to Switzerland.
From Switzerland, the Iranian president will travel to Austria where he will meet President Alexander Van der Bellen and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and oversee the signing of some documents for cooperation.
A key subject on the agenda, however, is a package which the Europeans are expected to offer to Iran in order to keep the country in the JCPOA.
The United States withdrew from the agreement in May, and said it would be re-imposing the sanctions lifted by the agreement. Washington has also threatened countries retaining trade with Iran with “secondary sanctions.”
Iran’s Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade Muhammad Shariatmadari said Saturday President Rouhani will discuss the package in Austria and Switzerland.
A number of Iranian economic activists and representatives of the private sector are accompanying President Rouhani in the visit.
Rouhani underscored the importance of Iran’s ties with the European Union, which views the nuclear agreement as pivotal to regional and international peace and security.
“Europe’s current situation is to some extent different from the past. Europe is opposing unilateralism with a louder voice, and expressing readiness to cooperate with Iran and other important and influential countries on regional and international issues,” he said.
Rouhani called the trip an opportunity to discuss the future of the JCPOA and bilateral agreements with EU members, especially given that Austria has just assumed rotating presidency of the European Union.
“We will be negotiating with Austria as the president of the EU,” he said.
Rouhani is also expected to discuss other issues, including the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
The president said “the oppression which has been imposed on Syria and the crimes being committed against the Yemeni people as well as the entire world’s responsibility vis-a-vis these issues, and the role which Iran can play in strengthening stability in the Middle East” will be discussed.
Iran will also sign documents for cooperation in the industrial, commercial, healthcare, education, and water resources management fields with Switzerland and Austria, he added.
Europe needs to save the JCPOA for a multitude of reasons, and Iran needs its commerce with Europe, thus, the interest in seeing something work is definitely there. But can European countries really incentivize their businesses to risk their access to the American market by transacting with Iran? Furthermore, with the threats of sanctions from America coming through on the pretext of buying Iranian oil against the wishes of Washington, will Iran be able to offer enough value to its trading partners to compensate for the damage this would inevitably entail? Can and will a vision of progress towards a more stable Middle East manifest which perceives Iran as a part of that process? The EU is now under the presidency of Austria, so it’s a different environment in some respects, the question is how it’s going to express itself in its dealing with a nation which their primary Western partner and ally, the US, deems a threat?