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Germany to mediate in Iran

May 23, 2019

Envoy Jens Plötner had been involved in drawing up the 2015 JCPOA treaty and went to Tehran with the aim of seeing it preserved. He was told that Iran's patience was over.

Hassan Rouhani at Bushehr nuclear plant
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/Iranian Presidency Office/M. Berno

The policy director of Germany's Foreign Ministry, Jens Plötner, went to Iran on Thursday, according to media reports.

"At the center of the political director’s visit is the preservation of the Vienna nuclear accord (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action)," a German diplomatic source told Reuters. "The situation in the Persian Gulf and the region, and the situation around the Vienna nuclear accord is extremely serious. There is a real risk of escalation...In this situation, dialogue is very important."

Plötner met with Iranian Vice Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi, one of the negotiators involved in the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran, the US, Britain, Germany, France, China and Russia.

Germany's Foreign Ministry has called the political situation in the Persian Gulf "decidedly serious," with regard to the tension building up between Washington and its Arab allies, and Tehran, since US President Donald Trump announced his withdrawal from the nuclear deal last year.

"There is a high chance the situation will escalate — for example because of a misunderstanding or an incident," the reports quote the Foreign Ministry as saying

Araghchi had relayed Iran’s impatience during the talks on Thursday, according to the Fars news agency. He urged the treaty’s remaining signatories to fulfill their commitments.

Nuclear deal on the agenda

Earlier this month, Iran announced it would scrap some of the "voluntary commitments" made in the 2015 accord that Trump abruptly pulled out of last year. Berlin is keen to save the deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which took 20 months to negotiate and followed years of diplomatic fine-tuning.

Read more: Donald Trump threatens 'official end of Iran'

The deal is aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of crippling sanctions. Since the US left the deal last year, the country has reintroduced sanctions, leading the UK, France and Germany to set up the INSTEX trade mechanism to facilitate trade despite US sanctions.

European countries are under pressure to save the deal, as Tehran has set a July 7 deadline to negotiate new terms for the JCPOA, with hard-liners like Iran's supreme leader openly criticizing the accord. Iran has already announced a rise in production of low-enriched uranium. If this continues, Iran could exceed the limits set in the nuclear accord.

US troop buildup

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is to present plans on Thursday to send 10,000 additional troops to the Persian Gulf, The Associated Press (AP) reports.

Officials told AP that the move was not due to any new threat from Iran, but was aimed at reinforcing security in the region.

At the beginning of May, the US sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the Middle East as well as B-52 bomber aircraft.

Maas: 'No one wants war with Iran, and that's how it should remain'

ng/jm (AP, Reuters)

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