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European think tank warns of clash between EU, US over Iran

Federica Mogherini and Mohammad Javad Zarif
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini (L) applauds Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during a joint news conference after a plenary session at the UN building in Vienna, Austria 14 July 2015 [Getty]

The European Union and the United States are headed for a clash over the issue of Iran, according to the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

In a new report released today, the think tank warned policymakers that the Trump administration's take on the Iran nuclear deal and regional issues could divide foreign policy in the West, as the EU urges the US not to back out on the diplomatic breakthroughs made by former US President Barack Obama.

"Europe seeks to safeguard the nuclear deal and use a similar model of multilateral diplomacy with Iran to reduce instability in the Middle East," the ECFR said in a press release.

"In contrast, the US is seemingly moving towards a policy aimed at weakening the Iranian leadership through economic, political and possibly military means."

The organisation pointed to the warming relations between the US and Saudi Arabia, while the nuclear deal with Tehran remains in limbo, with President Donald Trump clearly advocating for a termination of the treaty.

Read: UK certain Iran nuclear deal to be preserved, US says remains committed

"As such, Europe's priority in dealing with deteriorating Iran-US relations should be to protect the nuclear deal, while stepping up contingency plans for its failure," it argued.

The ECFR recommends Europe prepare legal mechanisms to block any possible US sanctions on Iran and, together with Russia and China, offer Iran enticements to continue to abide by the core elements of the current agreement.

Last week, EU leaders reaffirmed their full commitment to the 2015 nuclear deal, hoping that the US Congress would not let it collapse despite relentless criticism by Trump, who has called the treaty "the worst deal ever".

Should Trump walk away from the deal, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said that Iran would "shred" it.

Read: Kerry: Ending Iran nuclear deal would worsen N. Korea situation

But Europe is reluctant to isolate itself completely from Washington, also stepping up criticism of Iran's ballistic missile programme and its role in what the West sees as fomenting instability in the Middle East.

The US it also due to vote on non-nuclear sanctions on Iran next week in light of the ballistic missile programme, and on Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah militia – issues that have proved contentious amid already tense relations.

Asia & AmericasEUEurope & RussiaInternational OrganisationsIranMiddle EastNewsSaudi ArabiaUS
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