EU’s Josep Borrell in Iran for bid to de-escalate tensions

The European Union’s top diplomat arrived in Monday in Tehran where he will meet with President Hassan Rouhani

epa08190175 Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) greets EU High Representative of the European Union Josep Borrell at the foreign ministry in Tehran, Iran, 03 February 2020. Borrell is in Tehran to meet with Iranian officials.  EPA/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH
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The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell has arrived in Iran for a two-day visit aimed at de-escalating regional tensions.

On Monday Mr Borrell met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. He will later speak with Mr Rouhani and the Iran’s parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani.

The visit by the EU’s top diplomat comes amid escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran, particularly following the US’s January killing of senior Iranian General Qassem Suleimani.

Since the Baghdad assassination of the leading Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander in January, Europe has positioned itself as a potential arbiter between the US and Iran.

Brussels has attempted, since Washington withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, to salvage the agreement.

Germany, France, Britain and the EU, which agreed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran and other world powers, did not follow the path forged by the US when it withdrew in 2018.

However, in January the three European nations triggered the dispute mechanism in Iran’s nuclear deal. The step is the most aggressive taken by Europe so far to enforce the agreement that was meant to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

Mr Borrell, who plays a central role in managing the dispute mechanism, has given Tehran more time to deal with Europe’s accusations. At the time Borrell said the joint commission that regulates the Iran nuclear deal will meet in February.

After months of announcing steps reneging on its commitments under the 2015 deal, Iran said on January 6 it would scrap all limits on enriching uranium.

Tehran has said, however, it would continue cooperating with the UN nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Monday that Tehran hoped Borrell's visit would help the EU better understand the situation in Iran. He added it was his hope the visit would lead the bloc to "show goodwill by taking serious measures".

On Sunday, Mr Borrell met with King Abdullah II of Jordan and the Hashemite kingdom’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi.

“We have also discussed with the minister many other issues of the region, especially the situation on the Gulf region, the Iran deal, the situation in Iraq and also the fight against Da’esh, which has to continue, especially at this critical moment,” Mr Borrell said following the meeting.