The European signatories to a nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers in 2015 have triggered a diplomatic “dispute mechanism”, in their strongest response yet to Tehran’s steps away from the unravelling pact.
Following Washington’s decision to withdraw from the deal in May 2018, Iran began dropping its commitments under the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
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On January 6, days after the US assassination of a top Iranian general, Tehran took a further step by announcing it would scrap limits on enriching uranium, though it said it would continue cooperating with the United Nations nuclear watchdog.
“We do not accept the argument that Iran is entitled to reduce compliance with the JCPOA,” France, Germany and the United Kingdom said in a joint statement on Tuesday, adding they had no choice but to trigger the process that could eventually lead to UN sanctions.
“Instead of reversing course, Iran has chosen to further reduce compliance,” the statement said.
Iran has dismissed the European move, but said it would be willing to consider efforts to bolster the fragile deal.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran, as in the past, has complete readiness to support any [act of] goodwill and constructive effort to save this important international agreement,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a statement.
Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said the aim of the dispute mechanism was not to reimpose sanctions, but “to find a solution for the return to full compliance” with the deal, which was also signed by Russia and China.
The accord – deemed at the time to be a landmark achievement – sought to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons in exchange for sanctions relief and global powers beginning to welcome the country back into the international community.
But US President Donald Trump called it “the worst deal in history” and in May 2018 unilaterally withdrew from the deal, re-imposing crippling sanctions which have devastated Iran’s economy.
In response, Tehran challenged the European powers to fulfil their part of the deal and boost its economy. It began to raise the purity to which it enriched uranium beyond the limits it agreed to in the 2015 deal to apply further pressure on Europe, as well as stockpiling nuclear material.
“It means that [for European powers] there are serious problems with the implementation of this nuclear agreement on the part of the Iranians – and Iranians feel the same way about the Europeans, that they’re not upholding their end of the deal, which is why they all find themselves in this position now,” said Al Jazeera’s Dorsi Jabbari, reporting from Tehran.
“Iran is in a very particular position right now, given the latest chain of events that have unfolded since the beginning of this year… This now means that there is further pressure on the Rouhani government, whose main achievement was the securing of this nuclear deal in 2015.
“But since the US left and reimposed a series of sanctions, there have been no benefits to the deal for the Iranian people – that’s why they feel like they haven’t been able to see why they’re still in it.
“Everything has changed since the US left and this whole agreement is now in question… I think this mechanism has been triggered to force all sides to come back to the negotiating table and talk out the issues they all have at the moment.”
With the accord under intense pressure, despite the statements of European leaders, support appears to be growing for a new pact which could receive the endorsement of the US president.
A new deal?
United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday he would be willing to work on a “Trump deal” to replace the international accord agreed between Iran, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany.
“If we are going to get rid of it then we need a replacement,” Johnson said. Britain and other European powers have been trying to salvage the deal since President Donald Trump pulled the United States out.
Johnson said a “Trump deal” would be “a great way forward”, but did not specify the details of the proposal.
His idea stands at odds with Tuesday’s statement from Britain, France and Germany, which expressed “determination to work with all participants to preserve” the deal.
“From the American perspective it’s a flawed agreement, it expires, plus it was negotiated by (former) President Obama,” Johnson said.
“President Trump is a great deal-maker – by his own account and many others. Let’s work together to replace the JCPOA and get the Trump deal instead.”
In an apparent bid to keep the door open for diplomacy, the three European signatories – known as the E3 – said they were not joining the US campaign to implement “maximum pressure” against Iran.
“Given recent events, it is all the more important that we do not add a nuclear proliferation crisis to the current escalation threatening the whole region,” they said.
France sees resurgence of coronavirus cases post-lockdown: Live |NationalTribune.com
France is to propose that masks be worn in workspaces as it grapples with a rebound in coronavirus cases that rose again in the past 24 hours to more than 3,000 – marking a post-lockdown high for the fourth day in a row. The UK has imposed a 14-day quarantine for people arriving from France.…
France is to propose that masks be worn in workspaces as it grapples with a rebound in coronavirus cases that rose again in the past 24 hours to more than 3,000 – marking a post-lockdown high for the fourth day in a row. The UK has imposed a 14-day quarantine for people arriving from France.
South Korea’s new coronavirus cases jumped to 279 on Sunday, topping the 200 level for the first time in five months, due mainly to sporadic local infections in the greater Seoul area.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that stringent coronavirus regulations would be eased on Monday as the country’s infection rate falls.
Worldwide coronavirus cases surpassed 21.35 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, while more than 13.36 million people have recovered. Almost 769,000 people have died.
Here are the latest updates:
Sunday, August 16
03:05 GMT – Mexico reports over 6,300 cases, 635 new deaths
Mexico has recorded at least 6,345 new cases, pushing the total to 517,714, according to the country’s health ministry.
The health ministy also reported an additional 635 new fatalities for a total of 56,543 deaths.
Another 7,685 patients have recovered for a total of 418,164, representing 80.7 percent of the total cases.
02:38 GMT – China new local COVID-19 cases fall as Xinjiang cluster recedes
China’s new locally transmitted cases of the novel coronavirus fell to a one-month low as a cluster in the western region of Xinjiang receded, Reuters news agency reported on Sunday citing data released by the country’s health authority.
The number of locally transmitted cases in China dropped to four on August 15, all of which were in Xinjiang, the National Health Commission said in a statement. That compares with eight cases nationwide a day earlier, and is the lowest since July 16.
Asymptomatic cases test positive for the virus, but China does not classify them as confirmed cases until they show clinical symptoms of infection such as a fever or a cough.
In mainland China, the total number of new confirmed infections stood at 19 as of the end of August 15, including so-called imported cases involving travellers arriving from abroad.
As of August 15, mainland China had 84,827 confirmed coronavirus cases and 4,634 deaths.
01:49 GMT – New coronavirus cases soar to 279 in South Korea
South Korea’s new coronavirus cases jumped to 279 on Sunday, topping the 200 level for the first time in five months, due mainly to sporadic local infections in the greater Seoul area, according to Yonhap news agency.
The additional cases of the COVID-19 pandemic raised the country’s total caseload to 15,318, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). Of the new cases, 267 were local transmissions.
There were no additional fatalities reported, keeping the death toll at 305. The fatality rate was 1.99 percent.
The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries stood at 13,910, up nine from the previous day.
01:10 GMT – Brazil registers 41,576 new coronavirus cases and 709 deaths
Brazil has registered 41,576 cases and 709 deaths due to the novel coronavirus, Reuters news agency reported quoting the health ministry.
Overall, the country now has 107,232 deaths and 3,317,096 confirmed cases.
00:30 GMT – Trinidad and Tobago ramps up measures against coronavirus
Trinidad and Tobago’s government will implement tougher measures aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus after the number of infections increased in August, the prime minister has announced.
The Caribbean nation registered a jump in COVID-19 cases in August after a gradual rise in July, and has now recorded 474 cases and 10 fatalities, according to Reuters News Agency.
“Given how the virus has been behaving in other populations worldwide … we expect that we will be able to control the level of infection in a situation where our parallel (health) system would be able to cope,” Prime Minister Keith Rowley told reporters.
The new measures, which will go into effect on Monday and last 28 days, include the closure of beaches and places of worship, as well as a ban on dining at restaurants and bars.
00:05 GMT – France plans masks at work amid coronavirus resurgence
France is to propose that masks be worn in shared workspaces as the country grapples with a rebound in coronavirus cases that rose again in the past 24 hours to more than 3,000, according to Reuters News Agency.
The health ministry reported 3,310 new coronavirus infections, marking a post-lockdown high for the fourth day in a row.
The number of clusters being investigated increased by 17 to 252, it said in a website update.
The resurgence prompted the UK to impose a 14-day quarantine for people arriving from France, and led the authorities in Paris to expand zones in the capital in which wearing a mask is mandatory outdoors.
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
For all the key developments from yesterday, August 15, go here.
UK adds France, Netherlands to quarantine list: Coronavirus live |NationalTribune.com
The United Kingdom says all arrivals from France and the Netherlands will be subject to a 14-day quarantine starting on Saturday, prompting Paris to warn of a “reciprocal measure”. The World Health Organization (WHO) says “people should not fear food, or food packaging” as there was “no evidence” of coronavirus spreading via the food chain. …
The United Kingdom says all arrivals from France and the Netherlands will be subject to a 14-day quarantine starting on Saturday, prompting Paris to warn of a “reciprocal measure”.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says “people should not fear food, or food packaging” as there was “no evidence” of coronavirus spreading via the food chain.
Worldwide coronavirus cases surpass 20.7 million, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 12.9 million people have recovered, and more than 752,000 have died.
Here are the latest updates:
Friday, August 14
06:45 GMT – UK says it has no choice over quarantine for French arrivals
Britain had no choice but to impose a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals from France from Saturday in order to protect public health domestically, transport minister Grant Shapps said.
“It’s a dynamic situation, and I don’t think that anybody… would want us to do anything other than protect public health and public safety,” Shapps told Sky News.
“That does mean where we see countries breach a certain level of cases … then we have no real choice but to act,” he added.
06:35 GMT – New Zealand extends Auckland virus lockdown by 12 days
New Zealand extended a lockdown of its largest city Auckland by at least 12 days, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced, as authorities struggled with a growing new coronavirus outbreak.”Cabinet has agreed to maintain our current settings for an additional 12 days, bringing us to a full two weeks in total,” Ardern said.Since four people tested positive on Tuesday – the first cases in community transmission in 102 days – New Zealand has detected a cluster of 30 virus cases.Most of those cases have been found around Auckland, a city of 1.5 million people who have been asked to stay at home.Authorities are still struggling to find out how the virus came to return to New Zealand, which had earned global praise for its handling of the crisis.
06:15 GMT – Vietnam to buy Russian COVID-19 vaccine
Vietnam’s health ministry has registered to buy a Russian COVID-19 vaccine as the Southeast Asian country fights a new outbreak of the coronavirus following months of no local cases.
Russia said the first batch of the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine would be rolled out within two weeks, rejecting as “groundless” the safety concerns aired by some experts over Moscow’s rapid approval of the drug.
“In the meantime, Vietnam will still continue developing the country’s own COVID-19 vaccine,” state broadcaster Vietnam Television said, citing Vietnam’s Ministry of Health.
The ministry did not say how many doses of the Russian vaccine it had ordered, or when it expected to receive them. Vietnam’s own home-grown vaccine will be available by the end of 2021, the ministry said last month.
04:54 GMT – India’s death toll now world’s fourth highest
India’s coronavirus death toll overtook the United Kingdom’s to become the fourth-highest in the world as authorities reported another single-day record increase in confirmed infections.
According to the Health Ministry, India reported 1,007 deaths in the past 24 hours. Its total rose to 48,040 deaths, behind the United States, Brazil and Mexico.
India’s confirmed cases reached 2,461,190 with a one-day spike of 64,553 cases reported in the past 24 hours, the ministry said. The South Asian country reported 66, 999 cases on Thursday.
Millions of children missing school in India COVID outbreak (2:43)
03:53 GMT – New Zealand virus outbreak spreads beyond Auckland
New Zealand’s Health Minister Chris Hipkins said two of the 13 new infections reported on Friday were found in the North Island town of Tokoroa, around 210km (130 miles) south of Auckland, the site of the country’s latest outbreak.
But Hipkins played down fears the virus could now be rampant elsewhere.
“All of the cases so far are connected, they are all part of one Auckland-based cluster, that’s good news,” he said, adding that the Tokoroa cases were identified quickly.
“We’ve seen no evidence of a COVID-19 case outside of Auckland that is unrelated to the cluster we are dealing with.”
Police and military personnel check vehicles leaving Auckland at a COVID-19 check point outside the city [David Rowland/ AFP]
03:19 GMT – New Zealand reports 13 new cases
Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand’s Director General of Health, said the country recorded 12 new confirmed cases and another “probable” case of the coronavirus.
All but one of the cases had been linked to an existing cluster of cases in Auckland whilst the thirteenth was still under investigation.
“We are now asking that all positive cases and, where relevant, their family members or household members, transfer to the quarantine Auckland facility in Auckland for those Auckland based cases,” Bloomfield said.
02:40 GMT – S Korea logs biggest one-day jump in local cases since March end
South Korea reported 103 new coronavirus cases, of which 85 were locally transmitted cases.
The figure marks the highest one-day jump in domestic cases since the end of March, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said authorities will be forced to consider elevating social distancing measures in the Seoul metropolitan area – something policymakers had been reluctant to do over economic concerns – if transmissions continue to rise. Eighty-three of the new cases were logged in the capital.
The vast majority of Friday’s cases were reported in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area [Kim Hong-Ji/ Reuters]
He pleaded for citizen vigilance during a three-day holiday that continues through Monday and criticised plans by some activist groups to hold rallies in Seoul on the weekend despite the city’s ban.
02:00 GMT – North Korea lifts virus lockdown at border town
Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader of North Korea, has lifted a lockdown in a major city near the border with South Korea where thousands had been quarantined for weeks over coronavirus worries, according to state media.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim made the decision at a ruling party meeting on Thursday. The North Korean leader said it was clear after three weeks that the virus situation in Kaesong was stable and expressed gratitude to residents for cooperating with the lockdown.
Kim also insisted the North will keep its borders shut and rejected any outside help as Pyongyang carries out an aggressive anti-virus campaign and rebuilds thousands of houses, roads and bridges damaged by heavy rain and floods in recent weeks.
01:45 GMT – Peru surpasses 500,000 cases
Peru surpassed half a million coronavirus cases on Thursday and now has Latin America’s highest rate of death, according to health ministry data.
The Andean country has 507,996 confirmed cases and 25,648 related fatalities. Peru’s death rate stands at 78.6 per 100,000 people, according to a Reuters tally, a number higher than hard-hit regional neighbors Chile and Brazil.
President Martin Vizcarra blamed the recent spike in infections on an uptick in social and sporting events and a lax attitude by the public.
“There has been too much confidence on the part of the population,” Vizcarra said. “Let’s learn from history, correct mistakes and now we are united despite the discrepancies in some of the decisions that are made.”
Vizcarra on Wednesday banned family gatherings, reinstated a blanket Sunday curfew and extended lockdowns to five more regions of the country as figures revealed a 75 percent surge in infections among children and adolescents.
Images of the 125 doctors who have died during the COVID-19 pandemic in Peru are displayed outside Peru’s Medical College (CMP) in Lima on August 13, 2020 [Ernesto Benavides/ AFP]
Funerary employees in protective suits prepare to lower the coffin into the ground during the burial of a COVID-19 victim at the local cemetery in the remote Aymara highland village of Acora, close to the border with Bolivia, on August 9, 2020 [Carlos Mamani/ AFP]
01:37 GMT – Mexico’s case-load tops 500,000
Mexico’s health ministry reported 7,371 new confirmed cases of coronavirus and 627 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 505,751 cases and 55,293 deaths.
The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.
01:10 GMT – Governor of Venezuela’s capital district dies of COVID-19
Dario Vivas, the governor of Venezuela’s Caracas capital district and strong ally of President Nicolas Maduro, died on Thursday of COVID-19 at 70 years old, officials said.
Vivas, a senior member of the ruling socialist party, had said on Twitter on July 19 that he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus and was going into self-isolation.
“He died in combat … taking care of his health and all of us in this difficult battle against the Covid-19 pandemic,” Vice President Delcy Rodriguez wrote on Twitter.
Vivas is the first top-level Venezuelan government official to die of the virus, though several have tested positive.
Dario Viva (right) died on August 13, 2020 almost a month after testing positive for COVID-19, according to officials [Federico Parra/ AFP]
00:48 GMT – France warns of ‘reciprocal measure’ over UK quarantine move
Clement Beaune, French junior minister for European affairs, said the United Kingdom’s decision to impose a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals from France was one that “we regret and which will lead to a reciprocal measure”.
France “hoped for a return to normal as soon as possible,” Beaune said on Twitter.
On Thursday, France recorded 2,669 new coronavirus infections, its highest daily number since May.
00:32 GMT – France, Netherlands added to UK quarantine list
The United Kingdom will impose a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals from France, the Netherlands, Malta and three other countries, transport minister Grant Shapps said.
“Data shows we need to remove France, the Netherlands, Monaco, Malta, Turks & Caicos & Aruba from our list of #coronavirus Travel Corridors to keep infection rates DOWN,” Shapps said on Twitter.
“If you arrive in the UK after 0400 Saturday from these destinations, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days.”
Data shows we need to remove France, the Netherlands, Monaco, Malta, Turks & Caicos & Aruba from our list of #coronavirus Travel Corridors to keep infection rates DOWN. If you arrive in the UK after 0400 Saturday from these destinations, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days.
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) August 13, 2020
00:18 GMT – Trump attacks Biden on call for mask mandate
United States President Donald Trump attacked his rival, Joe Biden, for calling on governors to mandate face coverings in public for the next three months.
“We do not need to bring the full weight of the federal government down on law-abiding Americans to accomplish this goal. Americans must have their freedoms,” said Trump.
“I trust the American people and their governors very much. I trust the American people. And the governors want to do the right thing to make the smart decisions. And Joe doesn’t.”
Earlier on Thursday, Biden, the presumptive presidential candidate of the Democratic Party, called for a nationwide mask mandate, citing health experts’ predictions that this could save 40,000 lives over the next three months.
Meltdowns over masks amid coronavirus outbreak go viral (1:27)
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives.
For all the key developments from yesterday, August 13, go here.
France to boost military presence in eastern Mediterranean |NationalTribune.com
France will boost its military presence in the eastern Mediterranean amid an escalating standoff between Greece and Turkey over oil and gas exploration in disputed waters. France will send two Rafale fighter jets and the naval frigate ‘Lafayette’ to the region as part of plans to increase its military presence, the armed forces ministry said…
France will boost its military presence in the eastern Mediterranean amid an escalating standoff between Greece and Turkey over oil and gas exploration in disputed waters.
France will send two Rafale fighter jets and the naval frigate ‘Lafayette’ to the region as part of plans to increase its military presence, the armed forces ministry said on Thursday.
French President Emmanuel Macron called the situation in the eastern Mediterranean “worrying”, and urged Turkey to stop its “unilateral” prospecting and “allow a peaceful dialogue” between the neighbouring NATO members.
“I have decided to temporarily reinforce the French military presence in the eastern Mediterranean in the coming days, in cooperation with European partners, including Greece,” Macron said on Twitter on Wednesday.
On Thursday, the French military conducted training exercises with Greek forces off the southern island of Crete, Greek defence sources told Reuters news agency, as the first manifestation of Macron’s support.
“Emmanuel Macron is a true friend of Greece and a fervent defender of European values and international law,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted, in French, after a call with the French president.
Turkey and Greece, NATO allies, vehemently disagree over overlapping claims to hydrocarbon resources in the region based on conflicting views on the extent of their continental shelves in waters dotted with mostly Greek islands. The gas-rich waters of the region are also a frequent source of dispute between Turkey, Cyprus and Israel.
The Ankara-Athens dispute escalated this week when Turkey dispatched the research ship Oruc Reis accompanied by Turkish naval vessels off the Greek island of Kastellorizo.
Greece also deployed warships to monitor the vessel, which is currently sailing west of Cyprus.
Macron’s office, in a statement, said France’s increased military presence in the region was aimed at monitoring the situation and marked Paris’ “determination to uphold international law”.
Last month, the French leader called for EU sanctions against Turkey for what he described as “violations” of Greek and Cypriot sovereignty over their territorial waters. Relations between Paris and Ankara have also frayed over the conflict in Libya.
‘Risk of an accident’
Mitsotakis in a statement urged Turkey to show “sense” and warned the showdown in the eastern Mediterranean could lead to a military accident.
“We are vigilantly looking forward to sense prevailing, at last, in our neighbouring country so that dialogue may be re-initiated in good faith,” the prime minister said. “The risk of an accident lurks when so many military assets are gathered in such a contained area.”
Athens would not seek to escalate the situation, he said, but added: “No provocation will though go unanswered.”
Hulusi Akar, the Turkish defence minister, echoed the sentiment in an interview with the Reuters news agency.
“We want to reach political solutions through peaceful means in line with international laws,” he said, but warned Turkey would continue to defend its “rights, ties and interests” in coastal waters.
Turkey says it has the longest coastline in the eastern Mediterranean but it is penned into a narrow strip of waters due to the extension of Greece’s continental shelf, based on the presence of many Greek islands near its shore.
Turkish seismic research vessel Oruc Reis is escorted by Turkish Navy ships as it sets sail in the Mediterranean Sea, off Antalya, Turkey, August 10, 2020 [Turkish defence ministry handout via Reuters]
The island of Kastellorizo, which is about 2km off Turkey’s southern coast and 570km from the Greek mainland, is a particular source of Turkish frustration.
“Greece’s demand for a 40,000 square kilometre maritime jurisdiction zone because of the 10km square Meis island [Kastellorizo] … cannot be reconciled with any logic,” he said.
Greece’s claim to the waters around Kastellorizo is based on a UN maritime convention endorsed by many countries, but not Turkey.
Ankara said it would issue new exploration and drilling licences in the eastern Mediterranean, while Athens has demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Oruc Reis from the area.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias was due to fly to Israel on Thursday for talks, his office said, and will also address the issue with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Vienna on Friday.
EU diplomacy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc’s foreign ministers will hold an extraordinary meeting on Friday to discuss the eastern Mediterranean, Lebanon and Belarus.
Charles Kupchan, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said NATO members were increasingly worried about the potential for a confrontation between Greece and Turkey.
“Nobody wants to go to war. Nobody wants to see two NATO members mix it up,” he told Al Jazeera. “On the other hand, when you have this many naval vessels, when tensions are this high … things are in a dangerous place.”
Noting the diplomatic scramble to defuse tensions, Kupchan said: “In some ways, you are seeing an all hands on deck diplomatic response … And I think the French are trying to say hold on, we are going to try to cool the temperature here before things get out of hand.”
A similar crisis last month was averted after Turkey pulled the Oruc Reis back to hold talks with Greece and rotating EU chair Germany.
But the mood soured last week after Greece and Egypt signed an agreement to set up an exclusive economic zone in the region. The Turkish foreign ministry has said the Greece-Egypt agreement was “null and void”.
Egypt, Cyprus and Greece have likewise denounced a contentious deal, including a security agreement, signed last year between Ankara and the UN-recognised government in Libya.
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