‘Positive signals’ needed to save JCPOA, Merkel tells Rouhani

German chancellor calls for diplomatic solution to nuclear dispute during phone call with Iranian president, who insists only way forward is for the US to revoke ‘inhumane’ sanctions.

Rouhani also told Merkel his government has no choice but to limit access to international nuclear inspectors next week in accordance with a law passed by the conservative parliament in December [File: Reuters]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on Iran to take steps ensuring its return to full compliance to a landmark 2015 nuclear deal, in a rare phone call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

The talks between the two leaders on Wednesday came before a deadline next week set by Iran for new United States President Joe Biden to start reversing crippling sanctions imposed by his predecessor, Donald Trump, or it will take its biggest step yet to breach the deal – banning short-notice inspections by the United Nations nuclear watchdog.

“She expressed her concern that Iran continues to fail to meet its obligations under the nuclear agreement,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement after the phone call.

“It is now time for positive signals that create trust and increase the chances of a diplomatic solution,” the chancellor told Rouhani, it added.

The Biden administration has said it wishes to restore the deal that was signed between Iran and world powers, and from which Trump unilaterally withdrew the US in May 2018. Washington, however, insists Iran must return to all the commitments it started to roll back in response to Trump’s move before sanctions can be lifted.

For his part, Rouhani told Merkel it would be “impossible” to add anything to the nuclear deal, in reference to European and US calls to also include talks on Iran’s missiles programme and regional influence in a so-called “nuclear deal plus”.

“If we’re really looking to maintain the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and its goals, we must see its effectiveness in action within the devised frameworks and Europe must prove it in action,” Rouhani told Merkel, according to his website, referring to the deal’s official name.

The only way forward is for the US to revoke its “inhumane and illegal” sanctions on Iran, Rouhani said.

Iran has also proposed that European Union foreign policy chief and head of the JCPOA Joint Commission Josep Borrell “choreograph” a simultaneous return to full compliance under the deal by both sides.

Rouhani further told Merkel his government has no choice but to limit access to international nuclear inspectors next week in accordance with a law passed by the Iranian parliament in December.

Iran has informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that starting on February 23, it will stop implementing a number of “transparency measures” that it currently adheres to voluntarily. IAEA Director Rafael Grossi will be in Tehran on Saturday for talks, Iran’s envoy to the nuclear watchdog said on Wednesday.

The call between Merkel and Rouhani came on the eve of crunch talks between three European countries and the US on how to salvage the JCPOA.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will host his German and British counterparts in Paris, with the new US top diplomat Antony Blinken joining via video conference, the French foreign ministry said.

On Tuesday, Rouhani held a phone call with Swiss President Guy Parmelin, in which he expressed hope that a Swiss humanitarian channel set up after the US sanctions were imposed could process more transactions with Iran.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies