The three major European powers —Britain, France and Germany — have been quietly negotiating with the United States since January on how to supplement the Iran nuclear deal. President Donald Trump has demanded fixes to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) under threat of withdrawing from it; he is due to make a decision on May 12. European and U.S. leaders have been discussing how to address the JCPOA’s most controversial aspects, including so-called “sunset clauses,” as well as issues outside the deal, such as Iran’s missile development and regional intervention.
In late April, French President Emmanuel Macron visited Washington, followed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “We are of the opinion that the JCPOA is the first step that has contributed to slowing down their activities in this particular respect, that also established a better verification and monitoring process. But we also think, from the German perspective, that this is not sufficient in order to see to it that Iran’s ambitions are curbed and contained,” said Merkel during a joint press conference with Trump.
The potential supplemental agreement would not involve China and Russia, the other signatories. It would basically be a joint policy statement about several issues—not just the nuclear accord—among the four Western powers. But it would not change any language in the deal itself. "We are not aiming to renegotiate the JCPOA or reopen it or change its terms," Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Ford said on the sidelines of a nuclear non-proliferation conference in Geneva. "We are seeking a supplemental agreement that would in some fashion layer upon it a series of additional rules — restrictions, terms, parameters, whatever you want to call it — that help answer these challenges more effectively." The following are remarks by European leaders on the nuclear deal from April.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel
“We will continue with our argumentation, namely keeping the JCPOA (nuclear deal) plus expansion of the negotiating framework."
―May 2, 2018, speaking to reporters in Berlin, according to Reuters
“We are of the opinion that the JCPOA is the first step that has contributed to slowing down their activities in this particular respect, that also established a better verification and monitoring process. But we also think, from the German perspective, that this is not sufficient in order to see to it that Iran’s ambitions are curbed and contained. It is most important to see that Iran, after all, is trying to exert a geopolitical influence in Syria, in Lebanon, in Iraq, and we have to see to it that this attempt at influence is curbed and contained.”
―April 27, 2018, at a joint press conference with President Trump at the White House
“I believe that, obviously, this agreement is anything but perfect. It will not solve the problems with Iran. It’s just one piece of the mosaic, one building block, on which we can build the structure.”
―April 27, 2018, at a joint press conference with President Trump at the White House, according to RT News
“The issue on which we disagree is how we can best contain this. Prime Minister Netanyahu believes that the nuclear deal with Iran does not provide the security Israel desires. We believe it's better to have this agreement, even if it is not perfect, than to have no agreement. We will continue to discuss this, but Germany will watch very closely to ensure that this agreement will be fulfilled.”
―April 22, 2018, in an interview with Israel TV’s Channel 10, according to ABC News
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas
“We believe it is extremely important to uphold this agreement. Were it to fail or the U.S. to drop out, we would not have anything comparable to it and we fear that the situation would significantly deteriorate with everything that goes with it.”
―April 23, 2018, to the press at a meeting of foreign ministers from the G7 in Toronto, according to Reuters
French President Emmanuel Macron
“My view — I don’t know what your president will decide — is that he will get rid of this [nuclear] deal on his own, for domestic reasons.”
“It can work (changing positions so often) in the short term but it’s very insane in the medium to long term.”
“When people say President Trump is not predictable, I think the opposite, he is very predictable.”
“Look at his campaign commitments… [Trump] repeated in his office two days ago …. that this was the worst deal ever — it’s nightmare, it was a catastrophe, and so on and so on.”
“I think the U.S. will decide very tough sanctions” after withdrawing from the nuclear deal.
“I want to be the honest broker of the situation.”
—April 25, 2018, to reporters at the George Washington University
“The Iran deal is an important issue. We will discuss about that. But we have to take it as a part of the broader picture, which is security in the overall region. And we have the Syrian situation, we have upcoming election in Iraq, and we have the stability to preserve for our allies in region. And what we want to do is to contain the Iranian presence in the region, and JCPOA is part of this broader picture.”
―April 22, 2018, in remarks to reporters at the Oval Office with President Trump
“Mr. President, please allow me to go back to a number of issues, which are fundamental for not only our relationship, but beyond. The first topic is Iran. You said once again, in front of the press, what your position was during the campaign and as well as the President of the United States. It's not a mystery we did not have the same starting positions or stances, and neither you nor I have a habit of changing our stances or going with the wind.
That being said, I can say that we've had very a frank discussion on that, just the two of us. You consider that the Iranian deal, the JCPOA -- the one negotiated in 2015 with Iran -- is a bad deal. For a number of months, I've been saying that this was not a sufficient deal, but that it enabled us, at least until 2025, to have some control over their nuclear activities.
We therefore wish, from now on, to work on a new deal with Iran. What we need -- and I believe that on that, our discussions allowed us to shed light on our convergence of views -- is that we need to cover four topics.
The first one is to block any nuclear activity of Iran until 2025. This was feasible thanks to the JCPOA. The second is to make sure that, in the long run, there is no nuclear Iranian activity. The third fundamental topic is to be able to put an end to the ballistic activities of Iran in the region. And the fourth one is to generate the conditions for a solution -- a political solution to contain Iran in the region -- in Yemen, in Syria, in Iraq, and in Lebanon.
On these topics, I did not change. I constantly said that we needed to find the framework so that, together, and with the powers of the region, and with the Iranian leaders, manage to find a deal. I therefore would like us to commit to that effect in the weeks and months to come.
This is the only way to bring about stability. France is not naïve when it comes to Iran. We have also a lot of respect for the Iranian people, which, through their history -- its history -- has always shown its strength.
But we do not want to repeat the mistakes of the past. Each time we tried to unilaterally replace the sovereignty of the people, we brought about some more terror. But for our allies, we want sustainable stability. And I believe that the discussions we've had together make it possible to open the way, to pave the way for a new agreement, an agreement on which we will work. And beyond our European partners, we would like to involve the regional powers, and of course, Russia and Turkey.
It is also within this framework, as a matter of finding it together -- together, in the long run, we can find a solution to the Syrian situation. In Syria, we are together engaged within the international coalition against Daesh and the terrorists. And we will continue to act until end, within this framework, until victory.
That being said, in the long run, we need to win peace and make sure that Syria does not fall into hegemony in the region. So that effect, the approach -- which is agreed -- means that we can work, and work on all of the situation -- the whole of the situation -- in the region, and with these efforts, to contain Iran in the region.
We will continue to work to that effect within the U.N. Security Council to make sure that humanitarian law, the prohibition of chemical weapons are fully complied with. And we will continue to shoulder our responsibilities to that effect. But we will also work with our partners in building a sustainable, political solution, an inclusive one that will prevent any hegemony, and once again will prevent feeding terrorism in the future.”
“As for the Iranian situation, and I think I detailed in my introduction, for me, the key pillars of this new approach we want to adopt. And it's exactly what President Trump said. We have nuclear on the short run; we have nuclear on the long run. We have ballistic activity. We have regional presence of Iran. We want to fix the situation for these four pillars.
Syria is part of the fourth one. And what we have to work on, obviously, with Iran and the different parties in the region, the P5 and our allies, is to find a fair deal where we can fix the overall situation. This is the only way to preserve sovereignty in the region and to build peace on the very long run. Otherwise, we will have to come back in the region because of new terrorist groups for sure.
And I'm very happy about the discussion we had together, because we raised very new issues and very new solutions together, and especially the fact that the Syrian crisis and the Syrian situation should be part of this broader picture. And the fact that we are here and we are today in Syria, together as international coalition against ISIS, but tomorrow we will have to find a way to fix the situation from the political point of view, not automatically from a military point of view. Which means, to set up a series of agreements, part of this big deal, in order to be sure that Syria tomorrow will be a sovereign country with inclusiveness and free people in a situation to decide for the future. This is very important and that's our duty.”
“Now, regarding Iran, I've always been coherent, and you can go back to what I said at the U.N. General Assembly in September. I always said that there was the JCPOA but we needed to add three pillars post-2025 -- the ballistic issue and the regional influence. I do not know what President Trump will decide regarding the JCPOA, and it is his responsibility.
The JCPOA is the first pillar of this framework I just described. So I'm not saying that we're moving from one deal to another. I'm saying it is one aspect of the problem. I have never been as critical of the JCPOA as President Trump has because I believe that we can usefully add to it.
But no matter the decision that President Trump will take, what I would like is to work, as from now, on a new deal with four pillars, including what is already covered by the JCPOA, that is ongoing nuclear -- I mean, the current nuclear activities, the longer nuclear activities, the ballistic activities, and the regional influence
So this is constant. But over the past few weeks and in particular today, we've been able to go and to very much talk in details about this topic, including the situation in the region. And I believe that we've converged on a common reading on what is happening in Syria, in Yemen, in Iraq, in particular.
And on the fact that the nuclear issue is not the only one, that indeed there is a problem with the ballistic activity of Iran and their presence in a number of countries in the region. And that our willingness was indeed to set the conditions for the stability of the region.
Once we've built this convergence of you, the idea of moving on to a new deal that would include the solution for Syria, I believe, is a strong step forward thanks to the discussions we've had today.
So I very much would like us to work together with all of our partners. And the ministers of foreign affairs already gathered the small group, and they will be doing it again anytime soon. The purpose is to have some the allied powers -- and we amongst them -- and of course, also the regional powers, to work at the level of this small group. We also shall have some privileged discussions with Russia and Turkey on regional topics, including Syria. So as from now, we will work using that method in favor -- work towards a deal.
I believe we can both combine our common views and our differences, because we are not in a vacuum. I always said we should not tear apart the JCPOA and have nothing else. I think this would be -- that would not be the good solution. But once we are placing ourselves in a momentum, the purpose of which is to put together a broad agreement covering the four topics I just mentioned, it's very different because, first of all, we take on board the concerns and the criticism of President Trump regarding this deal, which, like I said, once again, this deal was supported by a former American administration and previous American administration.
But we can work, and it is also about respecting the sovereignty of the states of the region. It's not about intervening no matter what. It is rather about building a stable framework that will contribute to stability and to peacebuilding. And I think this is what we've been agreeing upon today. It's not about tearing about an agreement and have nothing, but it's about building something new that will cover all of our concerns.”
“Regarding Iran, we have a disagreement regarding the JCPOA, but I think we are overcoming it by deciding to work towards a deal -- an overall deal that will enable us to deal with the nuclear issue but also treat it together with another three issues, which were not being dealt with so far.
So should the decision -- I mean, we've spent more than an hour, just the two of us -- and had the conclusions been that the United States of America would walk away from the JCPOA and France would not move, then our friendship would be wasted. But it is about making sure that we're each taking into account the position and the interests of our reciprocal countries.
It is unprecedented. We've never before taken a joint position, a joint stance on Syria the way we did, and on Iran, in favor of a deal that will enable us to cover the four pillars. There is intense work between ourselves and our teams; otherwise we would not be in a position to do as much.
In the past, sometimes France argued that it was time to take action against chemical weapons, and it was -- France was not followed by its allies, including the United States at the time. It is not what happened this time. We decided together what was possible and what was not. What was legitimate within an international framework, as two members of the Security Council, and we conducted an unprecedented military intervention at an unprecedented level of cooperation.
And please allow me to pay tribute to our troops, to our armies, and to that of the United Kingdom because we've led a unique operation, a proportionate one, and we were able to do so thanks to this relation that we entered.
So on Syria, Iran, the credibility of the international community against the use of chemical weapons -- you've seen it. You have the evidence that showed that the relationship between our two countries and our friendship enable us to achieve some concrete results. And this is an improvement compared where we stood a couple of weeks ago.”
―April 22, 2018, at a joint press conference with President Trump
French Ambassador to the United States
When a country signs an agreement, this commitment doesn’t depend on the variable nature of its government. Otherwise, foreign policies would become impossible.— Gérard Araud (@GerardAraud) May 2, 2018
British Prime Minister Theresa May
“The Prime Minister held separate phone calls with the French President Emmanuel Macron and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday and this morning.
They discussed the importance of the Iran nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) as the best way of neutralising the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, agreeing that our priority as an international community remained preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
They agreed that there were important elements that the deal does not cover, but which we need to address – including ballistic missiles, what happens when the deal expires, and Iran’s destabilising regional activity.
Acknowledging the importance of retaining the JCPOA, they committed to continue working closely together and with the US on how to tackle the range of challenges that Iran poses – including those issues that a new deal might cover.”
― April 29, 2018, according to a press release from the prime minister’s office
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson
Great to see the new US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for our first meeting. @NATO we discussed Iran, Syria, Russia, and developments on the Korean Peninsula. 🇬🇧&🇺🇸 will always work side-by-side on major global issues. pic.twitter.com/TdV0XdjneP— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) April 27, 2018
“There is a strong view around the (G7) table that we need to make the case for the JCPOA.”
“We accept that Iranian behavior has been disruptive in the region, we accept the president (Trump) has some valid points that need to be addressed, but we believe they are capable of being addressed (inside the deal).”
―April 23, 2018, to the press from the G7 in Toronto, according to Reuters
“Clearly a lot of thought is going into how to keep a non-U.S. version. Believe me, that is not our preferred option.”
―April 23, 2018, to the press from the G7 in Toronto, according to Bloomberg
Discussed with US Acting Secretary @StateDept John Sullivan importance of maintaining international norms of counter proliferation re Syria, North Korea, Iran to ensure global security pic.twitter.com/8F1Jlx4DCL— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) April 22, 2018
Former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
“The great irony of President Trump’s position that it will do the opposite of what it intends. It will undermine President Hassan Rouhani and all those trying to reform Iran. It will also end all the restraints on a serious nuclear programme."
“I hope the European nations will actively cooperate to support regulations as they did in 1996 to protect their economies and firms from the impact of any American sanctions if they are imposed.”
―May 3, 2018, according to The Guardian
500 French, British and German MPs
To the members of the United States Congress:
For more than a decade, we – Europeans, Americans, and the international community – have feared the imminent threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. To counter this threat and make the Middle-East a safer place, the international community came together, using the might of diplomatic negotiations and the force of sanctions, agreed upon by most of the major economic powers.
Then, after 13 years of joint diplomatic efforts, we reached a major breakthrough and signed the JCPOA . With that, we were able to impose unprecedented scrutiny on the Iranian nuclear program, dismantle most of their nuclear enrichment facilities, and drastically diminish the danger of a nuclear arms race. Not a drop of blood was spilt. Furthermore, these controls will not cease after the ten years of the JCPOA: Iran will continue to be subject to the strict controls prescribed by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which will continue to limit enrichment.
The only reason why we were able to achieve this breakthrough is that we stood together. Together, Europeans and Americans, we have proven that a strong and united transatlantic partnership can bring about a coalition extending to Russia and China, endorsed by the international community.
This coalition is now at risk, as the US government moves towards abandoning the JCPOA without any evidence of Iran not fulfilling its obligations. The short term effect of this abandonment would be the end of controls on Iran‘s nuclear program, resulting in another source of devastating conflict in the Middle East and beyond. The long-term risk is even more serious: lasting damage to our credibility as international partners in negotiation, and more generally, to diplomacy as a tool to achieve peace and ensure security. Abandoning the deal would diminish the value of any promises or threats made by our countries. It would also diminish our capability to keep Iran nuclear-free after the expiration of the special provisions of the JCPOA. If we maintain our alliance now, we will be in the position to keep Iran’s nuclear aspirations in check in the long run.
Our credibility is all the more urgently needed when we look at the instability in many parts of the world today. With regards to Iran it is an essential ingredient in our much-needed efforts to curb the country’s aggressive regional and domestic policy. As much as we share the concerns expressed by many vis-à-vis this Iranian behavior, we are deeply convinced that these issues must be treated separately (as we are doing already) – and not within the context of the JCPOA.
It is the US’s and Europe’s interest to prevent nuclear proliferation in a volatile region and to maintain the transatlantic partnership as a reliable and credible driving force of world politics. We are open to dialogue on the best ways to tackle these challenges together. But let us be clear: if the deal breaks down, it will well-nigh be impossible to assemble another grand coalition built around sanctions against Iran. We must preserve what took us a decade to achieve and has proven to be effective.
Building coalitions and winning consensus is one of our main tasks as members of our respective Parliaments. We therefore urge you to stand by the coalition we have formed to keep Iran‘s nuclear threat at bay. This would not only be a powerful sign of the durability of our transatlantic partnership, but also a message to the Iranian people.
Together, let’s keep the JCPOA alive and protect the fruits of successful diplomacy.
― April 19, 2018, in a joint letter
E.U. High Representative Federica Mogherini
"#IranDeal it's working, it's been preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon [...] Full implementation of #JCPOA is essential for European security and for the security of the region" @FedericaMog pic.twitter.com/tztDqEyXx5— European External Action Service - EEAS 🇪🇺 (@eu_eeas) April 25, 2018
You said it. There is one deal that is existing currently.
It is extremely clear from the words of President [of the French Republic, Emmanuel] Macron and from the words and the positions of all the Europeans, that the deal we have in place now, today - the only existing deal for the moment - is working.
It has been preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and commits Iran not to develop a nuclear weapon, without limit. Because if you read the deal, the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action], very carefully, in the very beginning it says that Iran will not acquire nuclear weapons.
The deal is working, President Macron has stressed it yesterday in the White House very clearly: that we believe that the full implementation of the JCPOA is essential for European security and for the security of the region, and the Europeans will stick to that.
On what can happen in the future, we will see in the future. But there is one deal existing, it is working and it needs to be preserved.
―April 25, 2018, in remarks upon arrival at the Second Brussels Conference “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region
“We had a very good discussion with the Ministers on the Iran Nuclear Deal [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA] where we reiterated our strong commitment to continuing the full implementation of the agreement in all its parts, by all. This entails support for the work that in particular France, Germany and the UK are developing with the United States' administration to address some of the concerns that President Trump has expressed, within the framework of the existing agreement. And at the same time working to reassure the rest of the international community, and obviously also the Iranian authorities, on the fact that the European Union not only is committed to the full implementation of the agreement but will also continue to implement fully the agreement in the future, because we see this as a strategic element of our security and also the security of the region.
Obviously this does not mean that other issues that fall beyond the field of competence of the agreement, meaning non-nuclear issues like the situation in Syria that we discuss separately, or the situation in Yemen that we discuss separately, or the human rights issues in Iran that we discuss separately, are not addressed. On the contrary, the European Union is probably the most active player when it comes to dialogue with Iran, but also we have a system of sanctions already in place addressing some of these elements. So we will continue to address these issues, but separately from the JCPOA that we will continue to preserve one hundred per cent.”
“One thing is 100 percent clear to all of us: we want to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran. We want to see the full compliance by all to all commitments included in the deal. And this has to stay separate from any other consideration related to regional dynamics, the conflict in Syria, the conflict in Yemen, ballistic missiles, human rights - this might be something less relevant for others, but it is extremely relevant for the European Union. It is absolutely clear for us: the JCPOA has to stay. We will stay committed to its full implementation. We are ready, we stay ready and we continue to stay ready to address other concerns we share with the United States, and others, on some other issues, mainly related to the regional dynamics, but this needs to be addressed outside of the JCPOA. There is no connection between proposals that are related to the war in Syria and the implementation of the JCPOA. When I said that we support the work the E3 [France, Germany, the United Kingdom] are doing with the US administration, this is the reality of fact. This is a work they are trying to do in difficult circumstances, but with all our support, because our aim, our objective is to keep all committed to the full implementation of the agreement. Any effort will need to be made to reach this objective - obviously in the framework of the full implementation of the agreement, otherwise we would be contradicting ourselves.
As you know very well, I never refer to a sunset clause, the agreement does not have a sunset clause. The agreement contains different provisions that have different durations. The duration of the different provisions was, as you know very well, part of the negotiations and are part of the agreement as being agreed and as being currently implemented. You know very well that I have a special role given to me by the United Nations Security Council to ensure the full implementation of the agreement as it stands.”
“The agreement with Iran is a nuclear related agreement, when the sanctions that have been proposed are related to the Iranian activities in Syria which are not related to nuclear activities. So, it is quite clear to me that the nuclear agreement and the nuclear agreement implementation are not related to sanctions that are proposed for activities on the ground in Syria.”
―April 16, 2018, at a press conference following the Foreign Affairs Council
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres
“If one day there is a better agreement to replace it it’s fine, but we should not scrap it unless we have a good alternative."
“I believe the JCPOA [nuclear deal] was an important diplomatic victory and I think it will be important to preserve it, but I also believe there are areas in which it will be very important to have a meaningful dialogue because I see the region in a very dangerous position."
―May 3, 2018, speaking to BBC Radio 4, according to The Guardian