EU foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting to discuss Iran

FILE PHOTO: Iranian demonstrators react during a protest against the killing of the Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who were killed in an air strike at Baghdad airport, in front of United Nations office in Tehran, Iran January 3, 2020. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS/File Photo

Germany, Britain and France are scrambling to keep talks with Iran over its 2015 nuclear agreement alive despite Tehran having all but torn up the deal after the United States killed its top military commander.

In its first formal response to the killing of Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike at Baghdad airport, Iran said on Sunday it would abandon limits on its enrichment of uranium, further breaching a central component of the deal it struck with six major powers.

Since Iran did not say how far it would take enrichment while reaffirming cooperation with U.N. inspectors monitoring its nuclear activity, European Union officials found positive elements in the statement and the potential for de-escalation.

At the same time, EU foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting in Brussels on Friday to discuss ways to save the deal via pressure if necessary, a step that could lead to the reimposition of U.N. sanctions on Tehran. 

Meanwhile, the United States has denied a visa to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that would have allowed him to attend a United Nations Security Council meeting in New York on Thursday, a U.S. official said.

Under the 1947 U.N. “headquarters agreement,” the United States is generally required to allow access to the United Nations for foreign diplomats. But Washington says it can deny visas for “security, terrorism and foreign policy” reasons.

The U.S. State Department declined immediate comment. Iran’s mission to the United Nations said: “We have seen the media reports, but we have not received any official communication from either the U.S. or the U.N. regarding Foreign Minister Zarif’s visa.”

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric declined to comment on the U.S. denial of a visa for Zarif.