0902 GMT January 19, 2019
FM Zarif: US pullout ‘most blatant’ breach of JCPOA
Rouhani warns EU’s time to preserve deal limited
US seeking to work with EU on new accord
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said at a meeting with his counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Monday that Russia had confirmed its readiness to respect the Iran nuclear deal.
Zarif said Iran and Russia would do everything to save the nuclear deal after the United States announced last week it was withdrawing from it.
The Iranian chief diplomat arrived in Moscow on Monday, the second destination on his diplomatic tour aimed at keeping the nuclear deal alive, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Zarif’s diplomatic tour took him to Beijing at the weekend and will see him visit Brussels later in the week, as the international backers of the 2015 accord scrabble to save it.
Zarif later told a joint news conference with Lavrov that “the final aim of these negotiations is to seek assurances that the interests of the Iranian nation will be safeguarded.”
Trump has said the US would be reinstating the anti-Iran bans lifted under the JCPOA and also slapping the “highest level” of economic sanctions on Tehran, prompting anger among other parties to the Iran deal, which unanimously denounced Washington and vowed to stay committed to their side of the deal.
Reacting to Trump’s decision, Tehran said it would for now stay in the deal, pending talks with Russia, China and the three European signatories before coming up with a decision on the future of the deal.
Top Iranian officials, including the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, have said Europeans must give the required guarantees in order for Tehran to stay in the deal.
Zarif further censured the US under Trump for developing the habit of voicing opposition to international deals and regulations.
He said the deal “is based on the balance of obligations” between Tehran and the opposite side, including the US, and that after Washington’s pullout “this balance is undermined.”
He added: “We should see how we can secure the interests of the Iranian people.”
Zarif letter to UN chief
In a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres released on Monday, Zarif said the US “had been persistently violating the terms” of the JCPOA since it came into effect and that its pullout was “the most blatant material breach of its obligations under the agreement.”
Zarif noted: “If the JCPOA is to survive, the remaining JCPOA participants and the international community need to fully ensure that Iran is compensated unconditionally through appropriate national, regional and global measures.”
Defending Iran’s interests
Lavrov said that Russia and Europe had a duty to “jointly defend their legal interests” in terms of the Iran deal.
“Unfortunately, once again, we see that Washington is trying to revise key international agreements,” the top Russian diplomat said.
“Today, we hope to see how we can use the available mechanisms not to allow the undermining of this important document with the participation of European Troika, China, Russia, Iran and European Union,” he stressed.
Lavrov also voiced support for Iran’s right to defend its “legitimate interests” as part of the agreement, which removed nuclear sanctions against Iran in early 2016 in exchange for certain limits to its civilian nuclear activities.
“I would like to point out that Russia and other participants in the deal – China and the European countries – also have their legitimate interests enshrined in this agreement,” he added. “This is why we need to cooperate in protecting our legitimate interests.”
In the aftermath of Washington’s pullout, Europeans are seeking ways to protect the interests of their firms doing business in Iran and help them escape the brunt of the upcoming US sanctions.
Senior EU politicians recently threatened that the 28-nation bloc is ready to challenge any move that may harm their businesses in the Iranian market at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
US wants new deal
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that Washington wants to work with its European partners to thrash out a more wide-ranging deal.
But while Pompeo talked up the prospect of renewed coordination with America’s allies, another top aide reminded Europe its companies could face sanctions if they continue to do business with the Middle Eastern power.
Pompeo told Fox News that he had been tasked by the president “to work to strike a deal that achieves the outcomes that protect America.”
“That’s what we are going to do and I will be hard at it with the Europeans in the next several days,” said the top US diplomat.
“I’m hopeful in the days and weeks ahead we can come up with a deal that really works. And I will work closely with the Europeans to try and achieve that.”
With Pompeo seemingly assuming the “good cop” role on behalf of the Trump administration, it was left to newly appointed US National Security Advisor John Bolton to remind Europe its firms could be punished if they didn’t adhere to American measures.
Asked whether the United States might impose sanctions on European companies that continue to do business with Iran, Bolton told CNN: “It’s possible. It depends on the conduct of other governments.”
“The consequences of American sanctions go way beyond goods shipped by American companies because of our technology licenses to many other countries and businesses around the world. As those sanctions kick in, it will have an even broader effect as well," he said.
“I think the Europeans will see that it’s in their interest, ultimately, to come along with us.”
Europe seeking to uphold deal
Despite the US withdrawal, Britain and Iran expressed their commitment on Sunday to ensuring that the accord is upheld, according to a statement released by British Prime Minister Theresa May’s office.
“Both leaders agreed the importance of continued dialogue between the two countries, and looked forward to the meeting of UK, German, French and Iranian foreign ministers in Brussels on Tuesday,” according to a readout of the call with President Rouhani that was issued by May’s office.
Rouhani told May that the European Union’s time to preserve the nuclear deal is limited.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran is following its own national interests by honoring the JCPOA; unfortunately, other parties have not carried out their obligations in a satisfactory manner,” Rouhani said.
He added that his country is adamant that its interests must be ensured in accordance with the 2015 deal after the US withdrawal.
The Iranian president further stressed that Tehran has always complied with its obligations while the other parties to the deal have not done so.
“In the JCPOA, both parties have certain obligations; it is not acceptable that only one party carries out its obligations,” he added.
He also said that Washington’s move to ditch the deal was very irresponsible.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that his country intends to stay in the Iran nuclear deal.
“We are stakeholders in the Vienna agreement and we are going to stay stakeholders,” Le Drian told reporters in Dublin on Sunday.
German Economic Minister Peter Altmaier said on Sunday that Berlin would try to “persuade the US government to change its behavior.”
In an interview with ZDF public television, Altmaier noted that the United States had set a 90-day deadline for foreign firms to comply with the return of sanctions and that this period could be used to convince Washington to change course.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas acknowledged, however, that protecting European companies from potential US penalties could be difficult.
Reuters, AFP and Press TV contributed to this story.