Thu, 27 Jun 2019

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has urged China, Russia, and other 'partners' to take 'concrete action' to safeguard a nuclear deal that the United States exited a year ago.

Zarif made the call on May 17 upon arriving in Beijing, where he held talks with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi.

His call came amid mounting tensions in the Middle East, with the United States making increasingly threatening accusations against Tehran about its ballistic-missile programs and Tehran-backed militants in the region.

A U.S. aircraft-carrier battle group is now in the Arabian Sea, with a full air wing of fighter jets and accompanying ships carrying land-attack cruise missiles.

In May 2018, President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 landmark nuclear deal, which curtailed Iran's nuclear ambitions in exchange for relief from crippling sanctions. Since then Washington has steadily stepped up its rhetoric and imposed other financial sanctions.

Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China were all also signatories to the nuclear deal, and all continue to support the deal for the most part, despite Washington's opposition.

Tehran last week said that it is scaling down on some of its commitments under the deal to pressure the remaining parties to the pact.

'So far, the international community has mainly made statements instead of saving the deal,' Zarif was quoted as saying by Iran's official news agency IRNA.

'The practical step is quite clear: Economic relations with Iran should be normalized. This is what the deal clearly addresses,' the top Iranian diplomat added.

Zarif's trip to China followed quick visits to Japan and India.

Earlier this month, the U.S. administration withdrew waivers to China, Japan, India and six other nations that had allowed them to import some Iranian crude without being exposed to punitive action under the U.S. sanctions.

Iran has dismissed the allegations from Washington that there were 'imminent threats' from Tehran and accused the United States of an 'unacceptable' escalation of tensions.

Tensions increased further after authorities alleged that four Saudi oil tankers were sabotaged on May 12 off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. Also, Iran-aligned rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for a drone attack on a Saudi oil pipeline.

Speaking later in Tokyo, Zarif said there was 'no possibility' of talks with the United States to reduce escalating tensions.

But an unnamed U.S. administration official told reporters on May 17 that U.S. officials were 'sitting by the phone' but have heard no message yet from Iran about the possibility of direct talks with Washington.

'We think they should de-escalate and come to negotiations,' the official, who declined to be identified, was quoted as saying.

Iran denies it supports insurgent activity and has said its nuclear program is strictly for civilian energy purposes.

With reporting by IRNA, AP and AFP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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