In an interview with German weekly news magazine, Der Spiegel, published on Friday, Zarif complained that Britain, France, and Germany – collectively known as the EU3 – have failed to protect the Iranian economy in the face of sanctions re-imposed following the unilateral US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018.
The Europeans, he added, established the Instrument Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) to enable companies to do business with Iran, but they “haven’t succeeded in carrying out a single transaction” through the payment channel more than a year and a half after the US exit from the JCPOA.
Asked about the Europeans’ recent move to trigger a dispute mechanism devised in the JCPOA, Zarif said that it was actually Iran that activated the mechanism back in 2018.
“The Europeans have no legitimate grounds for resorting to this mechanism. They can’t just refer something to the Security Council because they are Europeans and they have blue eyes. And it’s not only us who think this, but also the Russians and the Chinese. The Europeans will be up against a major battle,” he said.
Shortly after the Europeans triggered the dispute mechanism, a Washington Post report revealed that US President Donald Trump had threatened to impose a 25 percent tariff on European automobile imports if the E3 refused to formally accused Iran of violating the JCPOA.
Zarif: Europeans sold out remnants of Iran deal to appease TrumpIran
The mechanism involves the dispute being referred to the JCPOA’s Joint Commission that will have a minimum of 15 days to resolve the issue. If the complainants are still not satisfied, they can refer the matter to the UN Security Council, which could vote to re-impose any sanctions lifted under the JCPOA.
“Unfortunately, the Europeans don’t view Iran as a partner. We triggered the dispute resolution back in 2018. As a result of that process, the Europeans, Russia, China and Iran issued a statement in June 2018. Among other things, it was stated that it is essential that Iran benefit economically from the nuclear agreement. But the Europeans didn’t do anything. They have not fulfilled their obligations. The Europeans have to come down from their high horse,” Zarif said.
“Let me make it very clear to the Europeans: If they want to implement their obligations, we will be prepared to go back to full compliance immediately. But implementing their obligations is not just about making announcements that they are committed to JCPOA. I could also make the same announcement: We are committed to the agreement, we love the agreement, we want it to stay alive forever. Words are cheap. Europe should show us one single action. But what have they done?”
The top Iranian diplomat further criticized the European parties to the JCPOA for being subservient to Washington concerning the multilateral pact.
“It’s a disaster for Europe to be so subservient to the US. Anybody who accepts unilateralism is helping it. The Europeans call us and say: We’re sorry, we cannot do anything. The Europeans can’t buckle to Trump and then try to act like the strong man against Iran,” he emphasized.
‘US won’t benefit from assassination of Gen. Soleimani’
Elsewhere in his interview, Zarif was asked about the US assassination of Iran’s prominent anti-terror commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani.
He said that tensions between Iran and Washington are “particularly grave” because “the US government undertook a terrorist operation against an official of the Iranian government.”
“The attack was based on a misperception. The US believed that by assassinating General Qassem Soleimani, it would improve its position in the region. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that people were dancing in the streets of Iraq. But there were huge funeral processions. It has created a very difficult moment in this region. The United States will certainly not benefit from this,” the Iranian foreign minister said.
Zarif also noted that Iran’s missile strike on a US base in Iraq was “Iran’s formal military response” to the assassination.
“There was no intention of causing any casualties with the missile attack – we were executing our right to self-defense in a proportionate manner. But the real response will come from the people of the region, who are showing that they are absolutely disgusted with the US behavior. The Americans will see that Soleimani as a martyr will be much more effective than a General Soleimani,” he pointed out.
He further stressed that the assassination of the senior Iranian commander will bring about the end of the US presence in the region.
“Soleimani’s murder is the beginning of the end of the US presence – certainly in Iraq, but elsewhere in the region, too. It may not be tomorrow, but we have millennia of history, so we are not in a hurry,” Zarif said.
He also praised the martyred Iranian general for defeating the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.
“The US, Europe and the entire international community is indebted to General Soleimani for the victory over Daesh. The realities in the region are incomprehensible to the United States,” the top Iranian diplomat said.