Iran's foreign minister arrives in Brussels -- the final stop of a global tour aimed at rallying support for a landmark 2015 nuclear between Tehran and six world powers in the wake of Washington's withdrawal from the deal.
Mohammad Javad Zarif will meet with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and with his counterparts from Britain, France, and Germany -- the three European signatory nations who have been making efforts to save the agreement under which Iran pledged to limit its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out on May 8, claiming that Iran had violated the “spirit” of the deal by financing militant violence in the Middle East and by continuing to test ballistic missiles.
Iran denies financing extremist violence and says its nuclear program is strictly for civilian purposes.
Zarif arrives in Brussels from Russia, where he and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed to remain in "close contact" over the deal.
Lavrov and Zarif met on May 14 in Moscow -- the Iranian diplomat's second stop, after Beijing, on a tour of key capitals as Tehran deals with the fallout from Trump’s decision to pull out of the accord.
At the start of the talks with Zarif, Lavrov said that all the remaining signatories of the JCPOA have "legitimate interests" in keeping the deal and that "therefore we need to defend the legitimate interests of each of us together." Zarif said that Russia had confirmed its readiness to respect the pact.
On May 14, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi. Amano and Putin made no mention of the Iran deal in their public remarks at the meeting.
Following talks with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in London, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on May 14 that France, Britain, and Germany were "determined" to save the Iranian nuclear deal.
"The U.S. leaving an international agreement does not mean that the international agreement is null and void," Le Drian said.
Johnson said he would discuss ways to protect European companies doing business with Iran at the Brussels meeting.
Meanwhile, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had spoken to his German, French, and British counterparts in recent days to discuss cooperation over Iran.
"The secretary underlined that the United States and our European allies share strong interests in preventing Iran from ever developing a nuclear weapon and in countering the Iranian regime's destabilizing activities in the region," spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. "He is hopeful we can continue strong cooperation."
Pompeo told Fox News on May 13 that Washington was ready to form a more wide-ranging Iran deal with its European partners “that achieves the outcomes that protect America."