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EU extends timeline for dispute mechanism with Iran

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The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Friday he had extended the time available to discuss ways to save the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran under a dispute mechanism triggered by France, Germany and Britain.

“There is agreement that more time is needed due to the complexity of the issues involved. The timeline is therefore extended,” Borrell said in a statement. The move gives the European members more time to try to find a way to persuade Iran to come back into line with the deal after Tehran made a series of steps away in protest at the US pulling out in 2018.

Borrell said he had consulted the countries still in the deal — which also include China and Russia. All are determined to save the accord, Borrell said, though it has been crumbling since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew and re-imposed stringent sanctions on Tehran, prompting the Islamic republic to announce a series of steps away from its commitments under the deal.

On Jan. 14 Borrell was notified by Paris, London and Berlin that they had triggered the dispute mechanism, in theory starting a 15-day process to resolve issues with Iran. “All agreed to pursue expert-level discussions addressing the concerns regarding nuclear implementation, as well as the wider impacts of the withdrawal of the United States from the JCPOA and its re-imposition of sanctions.”

JCPOA is an acronym for the deal’s formal title, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. However, in practice it is not clear when the 15-day period should start because Iran has not formally recognized the consultation process, officials have said.

Borrell said the joint commission that regulates the Iran nuclear deal will meet in February but did not give a date.

It usually meets in Vienna, though it can also meet in New York or Geneva.