Jan. 14 (UPI) -- The leaders of three of the European Union's most influential nations announced Tuesday they have invoked a dispute provision of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in a bid to preserve the pact and hold Tehran accountable for its violations.
Britain, France and Germany, all signatories of the agreement, said in a joint statement they were "left with no choice, given Iran's actions." The resolution mechanism is the most serious dispute option available under the terms of the deal.
All three nations have said they continue to support the accord, after the withdrawal of the United States, but their leaders want to hold Iran accountable for a series of steps it's taken away from the agreement, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Under the landmark deal, Iran agreed to restrict its nuclear research to the laboratory in exchange for the lifting of severe economic sanctions. The aim of the agreement is to keep Tehran from developing nuclear weapons capabilities.
By invoking the dispute mechanism, the nations put the complaints before a commission comprised of officials from from the primary parties to the deal -- Britain, France, Germany, Iran, Russia, China and the European Union. If no resolution is found in committee, the matter will advance to the United Nations Security Council. If the Security Council can't reach a solution, the original sanctions would be reimposed in an action known as a "snapback."
"We do this in good faith with the overarching objective of preserving the JCPOA and in the sincere hope of finding a way forward to resolve the impasse through constructive diplomatic dialogue, while preserving the agreement and remaining within its framework," the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany said in the joint announcement.
The ministers stressed the move does not mean they're joining a campaign to "implement maximum pressure against Iran," as U.S. President Donald Trump has declared with his moves to establish new, unilateral sanctions against Tehran.
Iran in recent months has instituted a five-step process to reduce their commitments to the deal. Despite warnings from the European signatories to reverse course, Tehran announced the fifth step last week -- ignoring the limit on the number of uranium enrichment centrifuges it can operate. Last year, it exceeded the deal's limit for stockpiled enriched uranium, a key element of nuclear weapons.
Trump urged Britain, France and Germany last week to follow the U.S. lead and drop out of the "foolish" agreement. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela said this week they are committed to the deal, as long as Iran complies with its terms.