EU foreign ministers to hold emergency Iran talks

EU foreign ministers to hold emergency Iran talks

EU foreign ministers will hold emergency talks on the Iran crisis on Friday, diplomats told AFP, as tensions rise after US forces killed an Iranian general in a drone strike.

The announcement on Monday came after the EU's diplomatic chief voiced regret at Iran announcing another step away from the fragile 2015 nuclear deal, as Tehran seethes over the killing of Qasem Soleimani, head of the Revolutionary Guards' covert Quds Force.

Josep Borrell, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs, tweeted that the accord, which has been teetering on the brink of collapse since US President Donald Trump withdrew support, was "now more important than ever".

European-led efforts to keep Iran in the deal -- which curbed its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief -- have borne little fruit since Trump's decision in May 2018 to pull out and reimpose sanctions.

Borrell will lead a meeting of foreign ministers at 2.00 pm (1300 GMT) on Friday, three diplomats said, to discuss the fallout from the Soleimani killing and the future of the nuclear deal.

Borrell said the bloc would wait for further details of Iranian breaches from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) before deciding how to respond.

"Deeply regret Iran's latest announcement on #JCPOA. As ever we will rely on @iaeaorg verification," Borrell tweeted, using an abbreviation for the deal's formal name.

"Full implementation of #NuclearDeal by all is now more important than ever, for regional stability & global security. I will continue working with all participants on way forward."

On Sunday, Iran said it would forego the "limit on the number of centrifuges" it had pledged to honour in the 2015 agreement, casting doubt on an EU push for talks to salvage the deal.

Borrell spoke to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the weekend and issued a personal invitation to come to Brussels, but so far Iran has not given a public response.

EU spokesman Peter Stano said there was "a lot of activity going on" from the bloc as it seeks to help defuse tensions that heightened dramatically on Friday when a US drone strike killed Soleimani at Baghdad airport.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is expected to make a statement on the situation later on Monday, while NATO has convened an extraordinary meeting of its ruling North Atlantic Council to discuss the crisis -- in particular on the future of its training mission in Iraq.

Iran's 2015 nuclear accord with the United Nations Security Council's five permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany has been hanging by a thread since Trump unilaterally withdrew from it.

Tehran said it would continue cooperating "as before" with IAEA inspectors but the leaders of Germany, France and Britain reacted by urging Iran to rethink its announcement.

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