RFL/RE – Iran is expected to dominate Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s January 23 meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Paris, the second leg of the U.S. top diplomat’s weeklong trip to Europe.
After meeting with top British officials in London on January 22, Tillerson cited progress in getting European support for tough penalties against Tehran that could prevent a U.S. withdrawal from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
Meanwhile in Brussels, Le Drian accused Tehran of not respecting part of a UN resolution that calls on Tehran to refrain from work on ballistic missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads.
Earlier this month, U.S. President Donald Trump said that he wanted to work with European allies and Congress to fix what he called “disastrous flaws” in the 2015 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 they had agreed to set up a working group of experts on fixing flaws in the nuclear deal.
“I think there’s a common view among the E3 that there are some areas of the [agreement] or some areas of Iran’s behavior that should be addressed,” Tillerson told reporters, referring to the group of countries including Britain, France, and Germany.
Tillerson cited concerns about 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 Israel, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence reiterated on January 22 that the United States would “withdraw” from the landmark nuclear agreement unless the agreement was “fixed.”
“The Iran nuclear deal is a disaster and the United States of America will no longer certify this ill-conceived agreement,” Pence said in an address to the Israeli parliament.
Pence also said that the Trump administration was “committed to enact effective and lasting restraints on Iran’s nuclear and ballistic-missile programs,” adding that the United States will “never allow” Tehran to have a nuclear weapon.
Iran insists its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes, while the United States and other countries claim it has been trying to develop nuclear weapons.
While in Paris, Tillerson will discuss other global issues of mutual concern, including Syria, Lebanon, Libya, North Korea, and Ukraine, according to the State Department.
The secretary of state will also attend the launch of the International Partnership against Impunity for Use of Chemical Weapons.
France says officials from more than 29 countries will be in Paris on January 23 to endorse the joint declaration of principles.
The new partnership aims at “strengthening cooperation in the fight against impunity for those who use or develop chemical weapons,” the French Foreign Ministry said, including collecting, sharing, and publicizing information about chemical attack perpetrators.
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.
A State Department official has said that Tillerson would be discussing the U.S. military presence in Poland, which has hosted U.S. and other allied troops following Russia’s 2014 seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and its backing of armed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and AP