EU ‘concerned’ over Iran increased uranium enrichment

Member states unite on statement against Iran’s latest actions, look forward to working with Biden on return to Iran deal.

An Iranian flag flutters in front of the IAEA headquarters in Vienna (photo credit: REUTERS/ LEONHARD FOEGER)
An Iranian flag flutters in front of the IAEA headquarters in Vienna
EU member states are united in their concern over Iran’s announcement that it will begin enriching uranium up to 20%, they said in a statement released Tuesday.
“We deeply regret the worrying steps taken by Iran over the last two years,” the EU said. “The initiation of uranium enrichment to up to 20% by Iran at the underground Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant, which was confirmed by the IAEA on 4 January, is a very serious development and a matter of deep concern.”
“We urge Iran to refrain from further escalation and reverse this course of action without delay,” it added.
The statement is in the name of the EU, which means EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell released it with the consensus of all EU member states.
Last week, Iran announced it would increase uranium enrichment at the Fordow plant. The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that soon after. Enrichment up to 20% was one of several steps Iran’s parliament called for after the country’s top nuclear scientist was assassinated, which Tehran blamed on Israel.
Iran’s actions violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the 2015 Iran deal is known, which has “clear provisions on Fordow,” and they have “potentially severe proliferation implications,” the EU statement said.
The statement reaffirmed the EU’s support for the JCPOA and said it has repeatedly called on Iran to reverse its actions that violate its commitments in that framework.
The JCPOA pushed off the point at which Iran would be able to produce a nuclear weapon, without banning it from doing so outright, while lifting sanctions against Iran.
The EU also expressed concern that “Iran’s action also risks undermining efforts aimed at building upon the existing diplomatic process,” an apparent reference to US President-elect Joe Biden’s intention to return to the Iran deal, which US President Donald Trump left in 2018.
Since then, the Trump administration enacted a “maximum pressure” sanctions regime on the Islamic Republic.
“We acknowledge the issues arising from the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the agreement and the re-imposition of its sanctions,” the EU statement reads. “The EU has upheld its JCPOA commitments, including regarding sanctions lifting as foreseen in the Agreement.”
“In this context, we also express our support to intensive diplomacy with the goal of facilitating a US return to the JCPOA and Iran’s return to full JCPOA implementation. We welcome President-elect Biden’s positive statements on the JCPOA and look forward to working with the incoming US administration,” the EU said.
Last week, the foreign ministers of the UK, France and Germany – known in the JCPOA context as the E3 – urged Iran to stop ramping up its uranium enrichment.
“This action, which has no credible civil justification and carries very significant proliferation-related risks, is in clear violation of Iran’s commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and further hollows out the agreement,” they said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Iran’s decision to continue violating its commitments, to increase the level of enrichment and advance its abilities to enrich uranium underground cannot be explained in any way other than the continued implementation of its intention to develop a military nuclear program. Israel will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.”