23 July 2019 | Clyde Hughes | UPI
uly 23 (UPI) — Iran and five countries that signed the 2015 Obama-era nuclear deal have agreed to meet in Austria this weekend to discuss the agreement and try to ease tensions in the Persian Gulf region.
The European Union announced the meeting Tuesday among signers of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia. The United States, a major player in the agreement, will not attend. The meeting will be held in Vienna Sunday, the EU said.
The meeting has been convened at the request of France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Iran, and will examine issues linked to the implementation of the JCPOA in all its aspects,” the statement said.
Iran had agreed in the deal to limit its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. U.S. officials reinstated the sanctions after U.S. President Donald Trump announced last year the United States would back out of the deal. Iran, in turn, said it’s no longer held by the limitations of the agreement.
The meeting comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and other nations, particularly the United States and Britain after a series of oil tanker attacks in the Strait of Hormuz this month.
The British Marines captured an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar on July 4 on suspicion it was attempting to ship oil to Syria, against sanctions. Iran retaliated last weekend by taking a British tanker.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif slammed Britain for its role, but congratulated new Prime Minister Boris Johnson Tuesday.
“The [Theresa] May govt’s seizure of Iranian oil at behest of U.S. is piracy, pure & simple,” Zarif said on Twitter. “I congratulate my former counterpart, Boris Johnson.
“Iran does not seek confrontation. But we have 1,500 miles of Persian Gulf coastline. These are our waters & we will protect them.”