Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi says European signatories to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are keen to preserve the agreement.
Araqchi made the remarks after the 15th meeting of the JCPOA’s Joint Commission in Vienna aimed at finding ways to save the agreement.
“All remaining participants in the JCPOA confirmed once again the importance of this deal and their support for the deal, and their efforts, their willingness to protect this deal to make sure that the JCPOA would stay alive,” Araqchi told reporters.
“We are still open to any initiative, which can ensure Iran’s [benefits] of the JCPOA and we are fully prepared to reverse the steps we have taken so far in return for the fulfillment of the other sides’ commitments in the JCPOA,” he added.
He said that during the Wednesday meeting the Europeans put forward more serious and pragmatic ideas to reinforce INSTEX, a non-dollar direct payment channel — officially called the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges, adding that INSTEX has almost reached an operational stage.
“There is a willingness to strengthen INSTEX so it can cover major parts of Iran-EU trade. We discussed about different ways to strengthen this mechanism,” he noted.
The three European signatories to the JCPOA — the UK, France and Germany — unveiled late in January 2019 the long-awaited mechanism meant to safeguard their trade ties with Tehran following the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal and in the face of the harsh sanctions imposed by the United States against the Islamic Republic.
In its initial stage, INSTEX was supposed to facilitate trade of humanitarian goods such as medicine, food and medical devices, and later be expanded to cover other areas of trade, including Iran’s oil sales. However, it has not resulted in any trade deals so far.
In 2018, the US left the JCPOA and returned its sanctions against Iran in defiance of the agreement’s multilateral nature and the fact that it had been ratified by the United Nations Security Council.
Washington then began forcing other parties to toe its sanctions line. The three European signatories to the deal have stopped their transactions with the Islamic Republic, bowing under the pressure.
In response to the US moves, Tehran has so far rowed back on its nuclear commitments four times in compliance with Articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA, but stressed that its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as Europe finds practical ways to shield the mutual trade from the US sanctions.
On January 5, Iran took a final step in reducing its commitments, and said it would no longer observe any operational limitations on its nuclear industry, whether concerning the capacity and level of uranium enrichment, the volume of stockpiled uranium or research and development.
Araqchi said that Iran was still keen and making efforts to keep the JCPOA alive but reaffirmed that Tehran would continue to suspend its commitments under the JCPOA unless its economic demands were met.
The Islamic Republic stressed in every meeting and also this meeting that without its demands being met in economic sectors Iran’s full return to the JCPOA is not possible, he said, adding that nevertheless, Iran’s intention is still to keep the JCPOA and make efforts to this goal.
Helga Schmid, secretary general of the European Union’s External Action Service (EEAS), said on Twitter that the JCPOA’s Joint Commission meeting on Wednesday “concluded with substantial discussions on next steps.”
Schmid added, “As a follow up to the statement by @JosepBorellF (https://bit.ly/2v98z5r), participants reviewed experts level discussions which have taken place in different formats in past weeks.”
The Joint Commission was chaired by Schmid on behalf of EU High Representative Josep Borrell.
After the meeting, a statement by Borrell was also issued. It said that the meeting addressed both Iran’s steps in reducing its nuclear commitments under the JCPOA, as well as longstanding concerns, recognized by all participants, regarding the impact of the US withdrawal from the agreement and its re-imposition of sanctions.
“Participants also acknowledged that the re-imposition of US sanctions did not allow Iran to reap the full benefits arising from sanctions-lifting,” read part of the statement, adding, “All participants reaffirmed the importance of preserving the agreement recalling that it is a key element of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture.”
It said that participants reviewed expert-level discussions which have taken place in different formats in past weeks, both as regards nuclear implementation issues and the wider impacts of the withdrawal of the US from the JCPOA and its re-imposition of sanctions and benefits arising from sanctions-lifting.
Dispute mechanism launch no solution to woes: China
Meanwhile, Permanent Representative of China in Vienna Wang Qun said at the end of the JCPOA’s Joint Commission meeting that the launch of the dispute resolution mechanism enshrined in the Iran nuclear deal is not the right way to respond to the challenges of the deal and thus is not on the agenda of the meeting.
“The re-imposition of sanctions or the launch of the [dispute resolution] mechanism are not answers to the challenges standing before us.
The participants of the meeting agree that this must not be included on the agenda. Yes, there are different points of view, but it is not on the agenda,” Wang said.
Wang added that the participants of the meeting reaffirmed their commitment to the JCPOA and underlined the need to uphold its tenets.
Last month, the three European signatories to the Iran deal accused Iran of violating the terms of the accord and announced that they plan to trigger a dispute settlement mechanism that could eventually restore UN Security Council sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Araqchi said on January 19 that the three European signatories to the Iran nuclear deal cannot logically activate the dispute settlement mechanism, because Iran has already done that.
“We are now engaged in complicated legal discussions and Russia and China are of the same opinion. It was Iran that first resorted to Article 36 [of the JCPOA] and completed its application. Therefore, logically, legally and even politically speaking, the European countries cannot take advantage of this article, because we have already done that and applied its mechanism in full,” Araqchi said.