Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif declared on Sunday that European countries are in “no position” to criticize Iran as his German counterpart Heiko Maas landed in Tehran. Maas’ visit is part of a concerted European effort to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal and defuse the mounting tension between Tehran and Washington.

“Europeans are certainly in no position to criticize Iran, even about issues that have nothing to do with” the agreement, Zarif said in televised remarks to journalists.

Iran signed the landmark accord with China, Russia, Germany, Britain, France and the United States, leading to sanctions relief in exchange for Tehran curbing its nuclear program. But last year, US President Donald Trump walked away from the accord and Washington has since imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran.

Zarif was quoted by Fars news agency as saying Maas’s visit showed Germany was trying to “keep the (nuclear deal) alive”. But, suggesting Iran did not view Maas as a mediator with Washington, he added: “It is unlikely that the German foreign minister is traveling to Tehran to carry a special message.”

European and Western policies “have only caused damage in the region,” Zarif said.

On Monday, Iran criticized the European signatories of the nuclear pact for failing to salvage the deal after the US withdrawal, state television reported.

“So far, we have not seen practical and tangible steps from the Europeans to guarantee Iran’s interests … Tehran will not discuss any issue beyond the nuclear deal,” said foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi.

“The EU is not in a position to question Iran’s issues beyond the nuclear deal,” he added.

In May, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran would no longer implement some parts of the nuclear deal and threatened to go further if the remaining parties failed to deliver sanctions relief.

Zarif said that Europeans have “a duty” to ensure that Iran’s economic relations return to normal.

On Friday, Iran rejected an idea mooted by France to re-open nuclear talks, warning that seeking to broaden the existing agreement could lead to its collapse.

Last month, Iran scaled back some commitments under the 2015 deal and warned that in 60 days it would resume refining uranium to a higher fissile degree than that permitted by the accord if Europe failed to shield its trade from US sanctions.

Washington has sent more military forces to the Middle East, including an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers and Patriot missiles, in a show of force against what US officials call Iranian threats to US troops and interests in the region.

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