France, Germany, UK call on Iran to stop 20% uranium enrichment

The three countries, known as the E3, are party to the 2015 Iran deal.

A general view of the Bushehr main nuclear reactor, Iran (photo credit: REUTERS/RAHEB HOMAVANDI)
A general view of the Bushehr main nuclear reactor, Iran
The foreign ministers of the UK, France and Germany urged Iran to stop enriching uranium up to 20%, in a statement released Wednesday.
The E3, as the European countries party to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are known, said they are “deeply concerned” by the “serious negative development” of Iran’s increased uranium enrichment at an underground facility in Fordow.
“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.
The foreign ministers also said Iran’s decision, announced on Monday, “risks compromising the important opportunity for a return to diplomacy with the incoming US administration.”
“We strongly urge Iran to stop enriching uranium to up to 20% without delay, reverse its enrichment program to the limits agreed in the JCPOA and to refrain from any further escalatory steps which would further reduce the space for effective diplomacy,” they added.
President-elect Joe Biden has said he would rejoin the JCPOA that departing President Donald Trump left in 2018, if Iran returns to compliance with the deal, and then negotiate ways to strengthen the agreement.
The nuclear deal’s main aim was to extend the time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb, if it chose to, to at least a year from roughly two to three months. It also lifted international sanctions against Tehran, which Trump brought back after leaving the agreement.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that “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,” Netanyahu warned.
Increasing uranium enrichment to 20% was one of many mentioned in a law passed by Iran’s parliament last month in response to the killing of the country’s top nuclear scientist, which Tehran has blamed on Israel.
Reuters contributed to this report.