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China, Russia fighting off US ‘snapback’ threat against Iran at UN

Veto powers China and Russia have written to the United Nations, arguing strongly against a US threat that it will try and bring about a return of all sanctions against Iran if the world body fails to extend an arms embargo against Tehran.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi raised the matter with Antonio Guterres and the UN Security Council (UNSC) in letters submitted to them on June 7, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

The United States has vowed to do all in its power to have the UN prolong the embargo on the sales of conventional weapons to Iran. The ban will expire this October under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and six major world states.

Wang stressed in the letters that the US was legally prohibited from asking the Security Council to return the sanctions as it withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018.

“The United States, no longer a participant to the JCPOA after walking away from it, has no right to demand the Security Council invoke a snapback,” he wrote.

The US State Department’s point man on Iran, Brian Hook, said at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation on Tuesday that the US would be prepared to raise the issue of the “snapback” of the sanctions against Iran if the arms embargo was not extended.

Similarly, Wang’s Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov raised the same issue with the world body on May 27, invoking a 50-year-old international legal opinion.

Under the 1971 International Court of Justice opinion, “a party which disowns or does not fulfill its own obligations cannot be recognized as retaining the rights, which it claims to derive from the relationship,” the Russian top diplomat reminded. The opinion has described the code as a fundamental principle governing international relationships.

Washington alleges that it can still trigger the so-called snapback because it is still “named” as a JCPOA participant in Security Council Resolution 2231 that has endorsed the nuclear deal.

Lavrov, however, wrote, “This is absolutely unacceptable and serves only to recall the famous English proverb about having one’s cake and eating it.”

On Friday, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft announced that Washington had shared a draft resolution on the extension of Iran’s arms embargo with Russia, Britain, France, Germany and Estonia which are all members of the Security Council.

Craft urged veto-wielders Moscow and Beijing to join what she claimed “a global consensus on Iran’s conduct.”

Reuters cited diplomats as saying that Washington was likely to face a “tough, messy” battle if it attempted to challenge the arms embargo’s removal and try to force the snapback against all odds.

‘US bid could trigger crisis at UNSC’ 

Lavrov’s deputy Sergei Ryabkov, meanwhile, warned that the US’s bid to reinstate the sanctions against Iran could lead to an inevitable “severe crisis situation at the Security Council,” Russia’s ITAR-TASS news agency reported.

Washington’s campaign, he added, amounts to complete rejection of the views of others and even common sense, calling it “outrageous that the US administration now tries to freely pick and choose what serves its interests.”

“It would be a huge blow to the sovereignty of the Security Council, and the US will bear responsibility for this,” the official noted.

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