LONDON: Iran’s ballistic missile program and the destabilizing role it plays in the region will be high on the agenda of discussions between European leaders and Tehran according to Middle East Minister Alistair Burt.
He said that the issues that triggered the move by US President Donald Trump to scrap the nuclear deal need to be addressed by Tehran.
He made the comments during an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat following last week’s announcement by the US president that the US would exit the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“The situation has changed in terms of the US decision,” he said. “But the issues which have concerned the United States and led them to pull out are extremely important and it appears clear that these must be addressed by the Iranians as well. Iran cannot rely solely on its adherence to the JCPOA and not take action in other areas. The UK will continue its obligations under the JCPOA and find ways to involve Iran positively in the region.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday said Washington still wants to work with its European partners on an agreement to counter Iran’s “malign behavior.”
Pompeo told Fox News on Sunday that he had been asked by the president “to work to strike a deal that achieves the outcomes that protect America.”
Burt urged restraint among all parties to avoid the risk of escalating the crisis while also stressing the right of Israel to defend itself.
Turning to the situation in Syria, Burt said that the UK had advised the Trump administration to remain “engaged and active” militarily and politically in Syria.
He said that the UK advocated a political transition to free Syria from conflict and a leader who had exercised brutality against his own people.
“Firstly the conflict in Syria needs to stop, the fighting need to stop and the UN resolutions for cease-fires need to be respected by all sides in order to give the political process a chance. Secondly the Geneva process should be followed to provide the political space for conclusions to be drawn. Thirdly, it must ultimately be for the people of Syria to make their decisions about their own country and direction and shape that it has. But fourthly, in terms of that ultimate solution to the political issue, everyone should be working toward something where the chance of conflict in the future is completely minimized or eliminated,” he said.
He added: “We would certainly encourage the United States to remain very active in Syria to the extent that if it really wishes to see the defeat of Daesh, it must also ensure that as well as the military defeat of Daesh — circumstances which gave rise to the movement in the first place — are not rekindled and that probably requires a longer term presence from all of us.”
Originally published in Asharq Al-Awsat