Jeremy Hunt says there is still a ‘small window’ of hope to stop Iran nuclear deal collapsing as he holds crisis talks with EU ministers
- Jeremy Hunt is in Brussels for crisis talks with EU leaders on iran nuclear deal
- The Foreign Secretary insisted the troubled pact with Tehran is ‘not dead yet’
- Donald Trump has pulled the US out of the controversial agreement with Iran
Jeremy Hunt insisted the Iran nuclear deal is ‘not dead yet’ as he held crisis talks with EU counterparts.
The Foreign Secretary said there was still a ‘small window’ of hope for preventing the international agreement with Tehran from unravelling.
The comments came as EU ministers gathered in Brussels to try to find a way to defuse mounting tensions.
The deal aiming to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons has been under immense pressure since the US unilaterally withdrew, and threatened businesses with sanctions if they continue to work with the regime.
There are fears the standoff could end in a military confrontation, after Iranian forces tried to seize a UK tanker in the Strait of Hormuz last week.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt (pictured in Brussels today) said there was still a ‘small window’ of hope for preventing the international agreement with Tehran from unravelling
Mr Hunt was holding crisis talks with EU counterparts including Spanish counterpart Josep Borrell (left) today
Speaking on his way into the summit ministers today, Mr Hunt said of the agreement: ‘Well, it isn’t dead yet. And we are totally committed to keeping the Middle East denuclearised.
‘If Iran acquires nuclear weapons then other countries in the region will acquire nuclear weapons.
‘It becomes a very, very toxic and dangerous situation. We are looking to find a way to preserve the nuclear deal.
‘Iran is still a good year away from developing a nuclear weapon.
‘We think there is still some closing but small window to keep the deal alive, and that’s what I’m here to talk about.
‘What we are looking for is to give Iran a way out of this so that they can get back into compliance with that nuclear deal.’
The comments came as the US urged European allies to take a tougher stance on Iran after Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear pact.
Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU, said: ‘I think that the time for reflection is over.
‘I think it’s time to act, and by acting, I mean that our European friends should join the US in unequivocally condemning Iran’s actions with respect to their malign activities, not just in the Strait of Hormuz but throughout the world, and bring them back to the table to discuss a comprehensive negotiation over all of their activities, including currently being the world’s lead state sponsor of terror, plotting attacks in Europe, their missile development programme and their general Middle East aggression.’
On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he dismissed as ‘complete nonsense’ an assessment by Sir Kim Darroch that Mr Trump decided to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal in an act of spite because it was agreed by his predecessor Barack Obama.
Sir Kim resigned as UK ambassador to Washington after his sensitive diplomatic dispatches were leaked, and Mr Sondland said Mr Trump’s approach to the Iran deal had been ‘very, very thoughtful’.
Mr Hunt’s attendance at the EU summit comes after he offered to help secure the release of the Iranian supertanker Grace 1, held in Gibraltar after being detained in an operation involving British Royal Marines.
Tanker British Heritage (pictured in Rotterdam last year), which is owned by BP and sails under and Isle of Man flag, was targeted by three Iranian ships in the Strait of Hormuz last week
The British tanker was travelling through the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic bottleneck that sits partially in Iranian waters, when the vessels approached and ordered it to stop
The US is urging European allies to take a tougher stance on Iran after Donald Trump (pictured) pulled out of the nuclear pact
In a telephone call with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Saturday, Mr Hunt sought to reassure him the vessel was intercepted over suspicions it was carrying oil to Syria – and not because it was Iranian.
He said he had offered to facilitate the tanker’s release in return for guarantees from Tehran that it would not breach EU sanctions on the Assad regime.
The move comes amid heightened tensions in the Gulf.
Last week, a Royal Navy warship intervened to drive off Iranian patrol boats after they approached a British tanker as it sailed through the Strait of Hormuz.
It prompted fears the Iranians were trying to seize a UK ship in retaliation for the detention of the Grace 1.
It was the latest in a series of incidents in the region, prompting fears of a slide into all-out conflict.
In recent weeks, the US has sent thousands of troops, an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets to the Middle East.
Iran, meanwhile, has begun exceeding limits on uranium enrichment agreed in the 2015 deal amid frustration in Tehran at the return of crippling US economic sanctions.
While the Europeans say they still support the agreement – which lifted sanctions in return for Iran curbing its nuclear programme – in practice they have found it difficult to get round the US measures.
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