Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says the United States “will get nowhere with its excessive demands” from Tehran, stressing that the Islamic Republic’s landmark 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has been “a rational agreement.”
Iran’s top diplomat made the remarks at a press conference shortly before leaving Washington for the Venezuelan capital Caracas on Friday, reacting to US President Donald Trump’s recent calls for the suspension of Iran’s uranium enrichment and concluding a 100-year agreement with the country.
“These remarks indicate that the JCPOA is a rational agreement,” Zarif said.
The accord was signed in Vienna in July 2015 between the Islamic Republic and the P5+1 group of countries comprising the United States, the UK, France, Russia, China, plus Germany. The JCPOA lifted nuclear-related sanctions against Iran in return for the country’s voluntarily changing some aspects of its nuclear energy program.
The US, however, unilaterally left the JCPOA last year in defiance of international criticism and although the deal has been ratified as a United Nations Security Council resolution. Washington also returned its anti-Iran sanctions in a move condemned by the Islamic Republic as “economic terrorism.”
“Those who say these non-rational things to Trump should also say that in the early 2000s, when they argued in favor of zero-enrichment policy against Iran and prevented an agreement between Iran and the European Union, Iran’s level of enrichment increased to more than 100 times,” Zarif further said.
“If Trump wants to try his chance with this wrong move, he will be our guest,” he added.
Iran has already increased the level of its uranium enrichment to 4.5 percent, which is beyond the limit set by the JCPOA. The move was part of the second phase of the country’s May 8 decision to reduce its commitments under the nuclear deal in reaction to the US violations and Europe’s inaction.
After Iran complained about the European countries’ capitulation to US unilateralism against the Islamic Republic and their failure to keep up their trade with Tehran as required by the JCPOA due to the US sanctions, Britain, France, and Germany in January announced the establishment of a mechanism aimed at enabling non-dollar trade between the 28-nation bloc and Iran, officially called the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX).
The apparatus is supposed to circumvent the sanctions that the United States began re-imposing against Iran after leaving the 2015 nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic, the E3, and Russia and China.
Touching upon INSTEX, Zarif also said that Iran has repeatedly made it clear that “INSTEX is a prelude to the EU’s implementation of its commitments.”
He also said that if the Europeans were willing to take necessary measures to save the JCPOA, they should operationalize INSTEX.
“The Europeans repeatedly made 11 commitments after the pullout of the US from the deal, plus their own obligations under Annex 2 of the JCPOA; INSTEXm — itself not an obligation — is required for those commitments to be carried out,” Iran’s top diplomat said.
“We are waiting for the Europeans to fulfill their commitments, including ensuring oil sales, shipping, banking and investment as well as scientific cooperation,” Zarif added.
NAM summit in Venezuela
On his trip to Latin America, Zarif added that he would participate in a Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Venezuela.
“Of course, I will use the opportunity to hold talks with the Venezuelan officials on the economic cooperation between the two sides, and on how the Islamic Republic can help restore peace to the country,” he said.
“In Nicaragua and Bolivia, we will discuss political and economic cooperation. We have very good friends in South and Latin America, and these countries are political and economic partners of the Islamic Republic,” Zarif further noted.
Separately on Friday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said Zarif has traveled to Venezuela to take part in a NAM summit, but “unfortunately, US officials are using every opportunity to spread propaganda and distort the reality.”
His remarks came in response to comments made by US Vice President Mike Pence, who on Thursday accused Iran of extending its “destabilizing activities extend well beyond the Middle East.”
Venezuela plunged into political crisis in January, when US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido abruptly proclaimed himself “interim president.” The elected government of President Nicolas Maduro has rejected the self-proclamation, but it has been negotiating with Guaido’s representatives to resolve the political crisis in the country.
Washington has levied several rounds of sanctions against Venezuela to oust Maduro and replace him with Guaido. It has also confiscated Venezuela’s state oil assets based in the US to channel them to Guaido.
Guaido orchestrated a failed coup against the government on April 30 with backing from Washington. Maduro’s government, however, has not proceeded to arrest Guaido despite the coup attempt.