By Stefan J. Bos
Monday's regular gathering of European Union foreign ministers was overshadowed by confirmation that Iran has begun surpassing uranium enrichment limits set in a 2015 deal.
That agreement was negotiated with the United States and other nations to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Under the deal, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities in return for the easing of crippling economic sanctions.
Iran began breaching the accord after the United States recently pulled out of the deal and re-imposed punitive measures against the country.
U.S. President Donald Trump defended his decision to withdraw from the accord saying he did not think that the current agreement went far enough in curtailing Iran's nuclear ambitions.
However, Germany and Britain were among several EU countries urging Iran on Monday to stick to the agreement.
Separately China on Monday also urged all parties to remain committed to the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, saying the United States should respect the interests of others and abandon its maximum-pressure approach.
Despite the tensions, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told reporters that he remains hopeful that a diplomatic solution could be found to end the standoff with Iran. "We are looking to find a way to preserve the nuclear deal, which we think is the best way of keeping the Middle East as a whole nuclear weapon free," he said.
Hunt added: "Iran is still a good year away from developing a nuclear weapon. We think there is still a closing, but small, window to keep the deal alive."
The summit Hunt attends also comes amid heightened tensions between Britain and Iran's government. Britain seized an Iranian oil tanker earlier this month and, in response, Iran threatened to detain a British oil tanker.
However, Britain has suggested that tanker, Grace 1, could be released if Britain is guaranteed the oil it was carrying is not bound for Syria.