BUCHAREST - French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have cautioned against an escalation in the dispute over Iran's nuclear deal after Tehran said it would stop abiding by parts of the deal and U.S. President Donald Trump said he was open to talks with Iranian leaders.
Tehran on May 8 said it had stopped observing limits on its nuclear activities agreed under the 2015 deal until they find a way to bypass renewed U.S. sanctions. The same day, the U.S. envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, accused Tehran of resorting to "nuclear blackmail."
Macron, speaking in Romania ahead of an EU summit on May 9, told reporters that "Iran must remain in this agreement, and we must do everything we can to ensure that it stays in."
He urged the agreement's signatories not to "get caught up in any escalation" and to "jointly watch over our collective security."
For her part, Merkel said the EU wants to avoid an escalation, adding that Tehran must recognize that it is in its own interests to remain committed to the nuclear deal.
"Our hand remains outstretched at this point; we want to continue to push for a diplomatic solution," Merkel said after the EU meeting.
Trump did not address Iran's latest move. But he told reporters at the White House that he wants the Iranian leadership to contact him.
"What I would like to see with Iran, I would like to see them call me," Trump said.
Amid rising tensions between the two countries, Trump said Washington was not looking for a conflict with Tehran.
"I want them to be strong and great, to have a great economy," Trump said, adding that "we can make a fair deal."
Macron said the landmark 2015 deal curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions is "a good agreement" but added that it should be completed with other pacts governing Iran's missile development and its potentially destabilizing role in the Middle East.
His statement came shortly after the European Union and three European powers issued a joint declaration urging Iran to respect the deal.
The EU's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and the foreign ministers of Britain, France, and Germany said they still backed the accord but rejected "ultimatums" from Tehran to keep it alive.
"We reject any ultimatums and we will assess Iran's compliance on the basis of Iran's performance regarding its nuclear-related commitments" under the agreement, the European statement said.
Iran has said its move was in response to the sweeping unilateral sanctions that Washington has reimposed since it quit the agreement one year ago. The reimposing of sanctions has dealt a severe blow to Iran's economy.
The EU powers say they "regret the reimposition of sanctions" by the U.S. and remain "determined to continue pursuing efforts to enable the continuation of legitimate trade with Iran."
They were "determined to continue pursuing efforts to enable the continuation of legitimate trade with Iran" in an effort to keep the deal afloat, the statement added.
But it said that Iran must at the same time "implement its commitments under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) in full as it has done until now and to refrain from any escalatory steps."