MUNICH – Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has urged European leaders to reject pressure from the United States to leave a nuclear accord designed to keep Tehran from making atomic weapons.

His comments at the Munich Security Conference here come one day after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence used the same stage to urge Europe to walk away from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. The Trump administration last year reinstated sanctions against Iran that were suspended under the accord, thereby nixing the U.S. commitment to it.

Europeans, however, have attempted to keep the Obama-era deal alive, setting up a special trade mechanism last month designed to fulfill the pact's requirement of normalized economic relations with Iran.

“The U.S. is now laboring to force others to violate that resolution,” Zarif said, adding that European efforts to save the JCPOA weren't showing “much success.”

“Europe needs to be ready to get wet if it wants to swim against the tide of U.S. unilateralism,” Zarif said. He portrayed the latest transatlantic disagreement as part of an trend by Washington to subdue its European partners. Next up, he argued, could be a demand by the Trump administration to stop dealing with China.

Europeans have shared U.S. concerns about the failure of the Iran nuclear deal to limit Tehran's missile arsenal. In addition, governments here believe that Iran is responsible for assassinations on European soil, a claim that Tehran has rejected.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel advocated for remaining in the JCPOA in a speech here on Saturday. “Are we helping our common cause, which is curbing the harmful or difficult influence of Iran, by canceling the only remaining agreement, or are we better off keeping the small anchor that we still have to perhaps build up pressure in other areas?”

Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.

More In Defense News