European powers have said they remain committed to the Iran nuclear deal but that they “reject any ultimatums” from Tehran to prevent its collapse.
Iran announced on Wednesday that it had suspended two commitments under the 2015 accord in response to the economic sanctions the US reimposed last year.
It also threatened to step up uranium enrichment if it was not shielded from the sanctions’ effects within 60 days.
The EU, UK, France and Germany noted “with great concern” Iran’s move.
Under the nuclear deal, which is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief.
But a year ago US President Donald Trump abandoned the deal, saying it was “horribly one-sided” and needed to be renegotiated, and began reinstating sanctions. In November, those targeting Iran’s oil and financial sectors took effect.
Iran’s economy is now sliding towards a deep recession, the value of its currency has dropped to record lows, and its annual inflation rate has quadrupled.
The EU’s foreign policy chief and the foreign ministers of France, Germany and the UK stressed that the JCPOA was “a key achievement of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture, which is in the security interest of all”.
“We strongly urge Iran to continue to implement its commitments under the JCPOA in full as it has done until now and to refrain from any escalatory steps,” a joint statement said.
“We reject any ultimatums and we will assess Iran’s compliance on the basis of Iran’s performance regarding its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA and the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons).”
The European powers expressed regret about the renewed US sanctions and said they were “determined to continue pursuing efforts to enable the continuation of legitimate trade with Iran”.
Those efforts include a “special purpose vehicle” that would essentially allow goods to be bartered between Iranian and foreign companies without direct financial transactions. However, the mechanism, known as Instex, is not yet operational.
Mr Trump’s Special Assistant and Senior Director for Weapons of Mass Destruction, Tim Morrison, said on Wednesday that Iran’s move was “nothing less than nuclear blackmail of Europe”.
He also warned European banks, investors and businesses against using Instex to evade US sanctions, saying it would be a “very poor business decision”.