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EU Ambassador To The U.S. Reacts To Trump's Decision To Leave Iran Nuclear Deal

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Europe is looking at ways to save the Iran nuclear deal and protect their economic ties with Tehran a day after President Trump announced the U.S. exit from the agreement. French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, over the phone today, and he expressed France's willingness to continue to implement the deal in, quote, "all its dimensions." He called on Iran to do the same.

For more on Europe's view on this, we're joined by David O'Sullivan. He's the European Union's ambassador to the United States. Welcome to the program.

DAVID O'SULLIVAN: Thank you very much.

CORNISH: On Twitter, you've said the Iran deal, quote, "belongs to the entire international community. It has been working, and it is delivering on its goal." How does the EU preserve it now?

O'SULLIVAN: Well, the important thing I think is that we believe this is a very important deal for the international community for peace and stability in the region. Putting nuclear weapons firmly beyond Iran's reach forever is a very important achievement. And although now the United States has said that they no longer wish to be part of this deal, we the European Union and I think the other parties to the deal and I think the wider international community want to see this deal go forward. We want to see it implemented fully, which prevents Iran from ever obtaining nuclear weapons. And we're now in discussions to see how this can be done in the coming weeks.

CORNISH: Now, at the heart of this is whether the deal can actually survive without the U.S., especially with broader sanctions back in place. Here's a supporter of President Trump's, Republican Senator Jim Risch, sending a warning to European countries.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JIM RISCH: Do you want a deal with Iran, which is a - really a - pea-sized in the world economy, or do you want a deal with the United States, which is the 800-pound gorilla? They have no choice. If they want to get caught up in the secondary sanctions, they can continue to deal with Iran. But they're going to lose huge, huge dollar benefits 'cause they won't be able to deal with the United States.

CORNISH: Your response?

O'SULLIVAN: Well, I think both the United States and Europe benefit from the enormous commercial and economic ties which we have. So this is not a one-way street. And the United States has a huge economic stake in its activities with Europe.

CORNISH: But are you worried about secondary sanctions? Are you worried about your companies dealing with sanctions from the U.S. because they're dealing with Tehran?

O'SULLIVAN: This is one of the issues which we will seek to clarify in the coming days and weeks with the administration and with the other parties to the deal because it's clear. It's not a question of making money out of deals with Iran - far from that. There's frankly not a lot of economic activity at the moment. But opening up commercial prospects was a quid pro quo which was important to the Iranians. And if they are to continue to submit to the very onerous and intrusive inspection and oversight of their nuclear program, making absolutely sure that there is no way they can ever deviate from the agreement and head towards nuclear weapons, then it's understandable that in return they do want to see some economic benefit. So we have to make sure that it is possible to maintain this balance between these two elements which are at the core of this deal.

CORNISH: You said quid pro quo. Can Iran now declare that the U.S. has violated the terms of the agreement and resume production of nuclear fuel? What then?

O'SULLIVAN: Well, I think that that is the outcome that none of us want because we want to keep Iran inside this deal. We want to keep the ability of the international community to monitor and to oversee Iran's activity to make sure that under no circumstances, as they have committed to under the terms of this deal, will they seek to develop or to acquire nuclear weapons. And in this context, they also have to see some benefit from the deal. And that's where we're going to be working now in the next few weeks.

CORNISH: The Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris climate accord, now the Iran deal - is the U.S. still a reliable ally for diplomatic agreements?

O'SULLIVAN: Well, I think when you have a change of administration, you have a change of policy. This has to be - we understand this. President Trump was elected on a certain platform. And the rest of the world has to take that into account and to expect that there will be some changes. So yes, when - in democracies, when you have a change of administration, you also have some inflection of policies. And this is something which is the normal part of political life.

CORNISH: Ambassador David O'Sullivan is the EU ambassador to the U.S. Thank you for speaking with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

O'SULLIVAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.