0609 GMT February 24, 2020
Zarif: Europe should show ‘single action’ to salvage nuclear deal
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 or E3 – have failed to protect the Iranian economy in the face of sanctions reimposed following the unilateral US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018.
"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.
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.
‘No legitimate grounds’
"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 accuse Iran of violating the JCPOA.
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 reimpose 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?"
Zarif rejected the idea that the deal is deal.
“Inspections and transparency about Iran’s activities are an important part of the agreement, and they are still happening. The EU has not fulfilled parts of the agreement and Iran has not fulfilled parts, but that doesn’t mean it is dead,” he said.
Tensions ‘particularly grave’
Zarif was asked about the US assassination of Iran’s top 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 US forces 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.
Zarif said Iran’s missile strike dealt a blow to the US military might.
“The damage we have done to the US is extensive, because with all its military might, it could not prevent the missiles from hitting its base. It shows how vulnerable the US is. But the Americans have inflicted the real damage themselves through the hatred the US created in the people of the region.”
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 Iranian general for fighting the Daesh 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.
Asked about the possibility of negotiations between Iran and the US following Soleimani’s murder, Zarif said he does not rule it out.
“I never rule out the possibility that people will change their approach and recognize the realities. For us, it doesn’t matter who is sitting in the White House. What matters is how they behave. The Trump administration can correct its past, lift the sanctions and come back to the negotiating table. We’re still at the negotiating table. They’re the ones who left. The US has inflicted great harm on the Iranian people. The day will come when they will have to compensate for that. We have a lot of patience,” he said.
Press TV contributed to this story.