UK considering ‘other options’ if Iran nuclear deal talks collapse

UK Minister for Asia and the Middle East says ‘no better deal to be had’ on Tehran's atomic programme

Amanda Milling, UK Minister for Asia and the Middle East, said phasing out the import of Russian oil by the end of the year would be easy. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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The UK is “concerned“ about Iran’s nuclear programme and is considering its options if an agreement is not reached on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as talks in Doha stall.

“If the negotiations do collapse … we have to look at what other options are available to us,” UK Minister for Asia and the Middle East Amanda Milling said in an interview with The National on Wednesday. She would not be drawn on details on the options available to her nation.

Last week, highly anticipated indirect negotiations between the US and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear weapons programme ended without any significant progress, two months after reaching a stalemate.

“There has been a viable deal on the table since March,” Ms Milling said. “Iran is preventing the conclusion of that deal by virtue of demands that go beyond the JCPOA.”

The British official also said Iran’s nuclear programme “has never been more advanced” and that “there isn’t a better deal to be had”.

Given the lack of progress, the US said a new round of talks is not scheduled to take place.

Under the 2015 nuclear deal, from which President Joe Biden's predecessor Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US in 2018, Iran is required to cap uranium enrichment in exchange for sanctions relief. France, Germany and the UK issued a statement accusing Iran of taking “unprecedented steps to accelerate the pace of its nuclear programme”.

“The impact on international security and the international non-proliferation regime of such an outcome would be grave and long lasting,” the joint statement said.

A Conservative MP, Ms Milling is relatively new to her role, to which she was appointed in February this year when the UK abolished the role of Minister for Middle East and North Africa, dividing it up into two separate positions for each region instead.

Ms Milling had paid her first visit to Bahrain and Qatar before heading to the UAE this week. Her Gulf tour comes as British Minister for Investment Lord Gerald Grimstone‘s meeting with the UAE’s Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed on Wednesday.

“The continued growth of the robust relationship between the UAE and the UK demonstrates the resilience of our ties in an evolving global environment,” Sheikh Maktoum said after the meeting.

”Building on our historical bonds, the UAE is keen to work closely with the UK to promote sustainable prosperity and security not only for our two nations but also the world.“

The UAE is the UK’s largest trading partner in the Middle East.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, oil and gas prices have rocketed, and inflation as well as a Russian blockade on wheat exports from Ukraine have caused a global food crisis.

“The UK is really concerned that energy prices have increased,” Ms Milling said.

“In another blow to [Vladimir] Putin’s regime, the UK will phase out the import of Russian oil products by the end of the year.”

She said to do so would not be difficult.

“There are no gas pipelines directly linking the UK with Russia and imports from Russia make up less than 4 per cent of our total gas supply in 2021,” she said.

Updated: July 07, 2022, 4:57 AM