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There is no positive alternative to JCPOA: EU envoy to UN

The European Union ambassador to the UN has lended his full support to the 2015 nuclear agreement that was clinched between Iran and six major countries, saying there is no positive alternative to the accord which has withstood pressure over the past years.

“There is no positive alternative to the JCPOA, which is the fruit of more than 12 years of negotiation, endorsed at the highest level by the international community and enshrined in the UNSC Resolution 2231,” Olof Skoog said on Tuesday at a virtual meeting of the Security Council in reference to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the official title given to Iran’s deal.

The nuclear deal was signed in 2015 between Iran, Germany and five permanent members of the UN Security Council — namely the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China — and was later ratified in the form of UNSC Resolution 2231.

However, in May 2018 , President Donald Trump terminated the US participation in the JCPOA and unleashed the so-called maximum pressure campaign, subjecting the Iranian nation to the “toughest ever” sanctions.

Iran moved in May 2019 to scale back its JCPOA commitments as per its rights enshrined in the deal, only after the remaining European signatories kept dragging their feet on the tasks undertaken as part of the deal.

In light of US President-elect Joe Biden signaling a desire to rejoin the JCPOA, Iran has expressed its readiness to reverse the suspension of its obligations only if the US returns to the accord and lifts all sanctions without any preconditions, insisting that the deal is any renegotiation of the deal is off the table.

The EU envoy hailed the JCPOA as “a key component of the global non-proliferation architecture,” saying its full implementation by all sides was “crucial for all JCPOA participants and the international community to reap the benefits of this agreement.” 

Skoog also noted that the 27-nation bloc “deeply regrets the decision taken by the United States in May 2018 to withdraw from the JCPOA. The subsequent re-imposition of previously lifted US unilateral sanctions and the decision to discontinue granting nuclear waivers have hampered the full implementation of the deal.”

Iran, he added, continued to “fully comply with the nuclear-related provisions for three and a half years, including for 14 months after the United States withdrew from the JCPOA and re-imposed unilateral sanctions. However, it is deeply worrying that Iran continues to decrease its nuclear related JCPOA commitments.”

Skoog further appreciated indications from the Iranian leadership that the country was ready to return to full JCPOA implementation.

Highlighting the abortive US attempt to trigger the so-called snapback provision in the nuclear deal, he said Washington had ceased its participation in the JCPOA in May 2018 and had not subsequently attended any of the activities related to the deal.

“The United States can, therefore, not be considered a JCPOA participant State and could not initiate the process of reinstating UN sanctions under the UN Security Council resolution 2231. I also note that the position of the majority of the members of this Council regard the US’ attempt to initiate the process of reinstating UN sanctions under the UN Security Council resolution 2231 having no legal basis,” the EU ambassador explained.

He also stressed that UNSC Resolution 2231 remains fully in force and that the obligations of sanctions lifting “remain central” to the JCPOA.

“As the Coordinator of the Joint Commission of the JCPOA, I am pleased to note that the Iran nuclear deal with now five years of age has withstood the pressure over the past years. The remaining participants have demonstrated their conviction and steadfast willingness to work diplomatically to preserve the deal,” he said. 

“It is evident to the European Union that the JCPOA needs to be fully and effectively implemented by all and that ongoing implementation challenges, including on nuclear non-proliferation and sanctions lifting commitments need to be addressed. I am pleased that yesterday’s Ministerial meeting confirmed the unity of all participants to continue on this path. I am also very encouraged that all participants acknowledged the prospect of a return of the US to the JCPOA and expressed their readiness to positively address this in a joint effort.”

Referring to the coronavirus pandemic, Skoog said the situation in Iran has been partly aggravated by the fact that the country has faced significant difficulties in procuring essential medical and protective equipment and medicines.  

He also said that the EU–Iran cooperation on the civil nuclear field under JCPOA Annex III continues, despite COVID-19 challenges.

“The European Union remains fully committed to support efforts to normalize economic and trade relations. In this light, the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) continues to have an important political and economic potential to facilitate legitimate trade with Iran, consistent with international laws and European regulations, as well as to support the needs of the Iranian population,” he added.

UN official urges efforts to preserve JCPOA

During Tuesday’s meeting, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo called for efforts to preserve the JCPOA.

“The Iranian nuclear issue is an important non-proliferation subject, with consequences for regional and global peace and security,” she said.  

“In achieving the JCPOA, the concerned countries had shown that their dialog and diplomacy, supported by a united Security Council, could forge a path to resolving this issue. We hope that these countries and the Council can do so again.”

DiCarlo also expressed regret that the US has re-imposed sanctions since its withdrawal from the deal, and that Iran has scaled back some of its commitments.

Russia: US pressure campaign failed

The Russian representative to the UN said the US authorities have over the past year tried to convince themselves and the rest of the world that the “maximum pressure” on Iran is the only possible way to resolve problems.

However, he added, all their efforts failed and members of the UN Security Council showed considerable unity.

“The illegal claims of the United States and the re-imposition of sanctions on Iran indicated the unrealistic stances of the United States,” the Doha-based Al Jazeera broadcaster quoted the Russian envoy as saying.

“Once again, we regret that leaders of the United Nations did not have the courage to explicitly call on the United States to return fully and unconditionally to adhere to UN Security Council Resolution and JCPOA and to stop all acts that have violated these documents.”

China: US approach root cause of predicament

China’s representative to the UN emphasized that the United States’ unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA and its policy of maximum pressure on Iran are “the root causes of the current predicament.”

“Faced with that country’s unreasonable demands, most Council members refused to endorse its position, thus reflecting the international community’s support for justice and multilateralism,” he said.

“All parties should maintain calm and restraint, implement the Plan of Action and restore the balance of rights and obligations under it.  Going forward, all parties should seize the opportunity to put the Plan of Action back on the right track.  The most important task is for the United States to mend its way, rejoin the agreement and return to full compliance.” 

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