May 9 (UPI) -- The European Union, Britain, France and Germany on Thursday rejected an ultimatum from Iran that gave the nations two months to promise to shield Tehran from U.S. sanctions.
The ultimatum was given Wednesday by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who blasted the United States for withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal. After the Trump administration abandoned the agreement, it reimposed sanctions against Iranian exports, most significantly oil.
In his remarks Wednesday, Rouhani said the other parties to the agreement -- the EU and the governments of Britain, Germany, France and China -- have 60 days to implement promises to protect Iranian oil exports and banking sectors. Tehran said it will end compliance with two key parts of the deal if the EU doesn't resume trade with Iran, which would defy U.S. sanctions.
Thursday, the EU's high representative and foreign ministers of France, Germany and Britain rejected the demand but said they're still committed to the agreement, which lifted Iranian sanctions in exchange for Tehran's promise not to develop nuclear weapons.
"We reject any ultimatums and will assess Iran's compliance on the basis of Iran's performance regarding its nuclear-related commitments under the [nuclear deal] and the [Nonproliferation of Weapons Treaty]," the parties said in a joint statement.
"We regret the re-imposition of sanctions by the United States following their withdrawal."
Rouhani's demand is part of an effort to get other nations to begin buying Iran crude oil again, which is barred by U.S. sanctions.
"The path we have chosen today is not the path of war, it is the path of diplomacy," Rouhani said. "But diplomacy with a new language and a new logic."
The EU said it will continue "legitimate trade" with Iran.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, which sends inspectors into Iran, will publish its next report in August to ensure Iran's compliance.
The Trump administration reimposed tough sanctions on Iran last year after leaving the Obama-era pact. Last fall, they expanded to include Iran crude oil exports to most countries. U.S. officials tightened sanctions again this month when U.S. President Donald Trump ended waivers for a few countries that had been excepted from the sanctions. The United States has also announced new sanctions for metal exports.
Iran, however, appears to be resuming oil shipments to Syria, two industry tracking websites showed Thursday. Tankertrackers.com and ClipperData reported that an Iranian tanker delivered 1 million barrels of crude to Baniyas, Syria, last week. Iran stopped shipping to Syria at the end of last year. The website uses data collected by the U.S. Coast Guard and satellite images to track Iranian vessels, and can even spot ships that turn off their transponders.