RFL/RE – The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) has urged Iran to negotiate with world powers and its Persian Gulf neighbors in broader talks that include not only nuclear issues but also Tehran’s ballistic-missile program and its use of proxy groups abroad.
The November 10 call, by a U.S. ally with longstanding territorial tensions with Iran, follows Tehran’s announcement last week of a further step away from a 4-year-old nuclear deal with world powers that was abandoned last year by the United States.
It also comes on the same day that Iranian and Russian officials say joint work has begun on a new stage of a nuclear power plant at Bushehr in southern Iran.
“Further escalation at this point serves no one, and we strongly believe that there is room for collective diplomacy to succeed,” U.A.E. Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash told an audience in Abu Dhabi, according to Reuters.
Gargash cited perceptions of a “false choice” between conflict and a “flawed” nuclear deal, and said a new agreement could ease tensions and help Iran’s economy recover from its current slide.
Tensions have skyrocketed since President Donald Trump steered the United States out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and reimposed and strengthened unilateral economic and trade sanctions under a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, with public threats and naval seizures in the strategically important Gulf region.
European signatories have sought to preserve the 2015 deal, which also includes Russia and China.
Iranian officials have said they won’t return to negotiations until sanctions are lifted.
Meanwhile, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman on November 10 said Tehran “has made no decision yet on leaving” the international nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as it rolls back its JCPOA commitments, according to Iranian state Press TV.
“Iran has worked out different scenarios and will implement its intended measures based on time requirements and measures taken by the opposite side,” spokesman Abbas Musavi said.
He said Tehran’s moves were “calculated.”
Gargash suggested to an annual strategic forum in the U.A.E. capital that broadening the grounds for discussion to include Iran’s missile program and its use of proxy groups underscored the need for international consensus and regional states’ participation.
“I believe there could be a path to a deal with Iran that all parties might soon be ready to embark on,” he said. “It will be long, and patience and courage will be required.”
U.S. and Saudi officials have blamed Iran for drone and missile attacks on key Saudi oil facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais in September, despite a claim of responsibility by Iranian-allied Huthi rebels in neighboring Yemen.
Iranian officials have said they resumed enrichment of uranium at the Fordow nuclear facility on November 7 in their latest break with the terms of the JCPOA.
A day later, Tehran said it had canceled the accreditation of an inspector from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) after an incident on October 28 in which an alarm at the Natanz uranium-enrichment plant suggested she could have been tainted with explosive nitrates. The IAEA dismissed the claim.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo followed by calling Iran’s treatment of the inspector “an outrageous and unwarranted act of intimidation.
TASS quoted Iranian state broadcaster IRIB reporting on November 10 that joint Russian-Iranian construction work had begun on the second stage of the Bushehr nuclear power plant.
Russian monopoly Rosatom is contracted to build Bushehr’s second and third power units, and Rosatom First Director for Operations Management Aleksandr Lokshin and the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency head Ali Akbar Salehi attended a ceremony around the pouring of cement at the facility on November 10.