The European Commission’s president has slammed Washington for turning its back on its own allies by quitting the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, saying the US under President Donald Trump has lost its influence as an international player and that the EU must replace it on the global stage.
In an address to Belgium’s Flemish regional parliament on Wednesday, Jean-Claude Juncker said the US is turning its back on multilateral relations and friendly cooperation “with a ferocity that can only surprise us.”
Juncker said Washington “no longer wants to cooperate with other parts in the world” and that it was up to the EU to take on the mantle of the US.
“At this point, we have to replace the United States, which as an international actor has lost vigor, and because of it, in the long term, influence,” he said.
After criticizing the agreement for months, Trump on Tuesday officially declared that his country is pulling out of the Iran deal, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) despite efforts by the European parties to dissuade the US president from such a move and salvage the agreement.
Trump said Washington will not only reinstate the anti-Iran sanctions that were lifted as part of the deal, but will also “be instituting the highest level of economic” bans against the Islamic Republic.
In the wake of Trump’s announcement, the Europeans are scrambling to protect the interests of their companies doing business with Iran in the face of Washington’s future re-imposition of sanctions against Tehran.
The European Union has threatened to take the US to the World Trade Organization (WTO) if it takes any harmful steps against European businesses in Iran.
In the weeks leading up to Trump’s announcement, top European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Macron and UK Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Boris Johnson went to Washington to convince Trump to stay in the deal, but they failed to do so.
On Wednesday, Merkel echoed Juncker’s comments, saying Washington’s withdrawal from the JCPOA shows Europe would face increasing responsibility to secure peace and seek political solutions to conflicts.
Merkel underlined the commitment of Germany, France and Britain to the landmark deal.
“We have taken note with regret but also concern of this withdrawal by the United States of America, which is of course serious for such an agreement. We will remain committed to this agreement and try to do everything so that Iran also fulfills its commitments in the future,” she told members of her conservative party.
Merkel said that the US’s announcement to quit the nuclear deal “showed us once again that we will face more responsibility in Europe, in foreign policy, in the area of securing peace, in the area of the political solutions we must find.”
French President Emmanuel Macron , along with the UK and Germany, voiced regret over Trump’s decision and reinforced their commitment to the deal.
Trump made the decision despite numerous reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that confirm Iran’s compliance to the landmark agreement.
In a brief statement on Wednesday, the IAEA’s Director General Yukiya Amano said that “as of today, the IAEA can confirm that the nuclear-related commitments are being implemented by Iran.”