Noting that the United States and Iran have reaffirmed their seriousness to return to full implementation of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the top United Nations political affairs official today called on both countries to expeditiously translate these pledges into a mutually acceptable agreement, as she briefed the Security Council on the latest developments.
“There is simply no viable alternative to the full and effective implementation of the Plan,” said Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, during her briefing on the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015), which endorsed the nuclear deal reached by China, France, Germany, United Kingdom, United States, Russian Federation and Iran.
Given the status of the talks, full restoration of the Plan of Action and resolution 2231 (2015) will require “additional effort and patience”, she said, recalling that the Plan itself was the result of more than a decade of determined diplomacy.
Urging the United States — which withdrew from the agreement in May 2018 — to lift or waive its sanctions as outlined in the Plan of Action and to extend the waivers related to oil trade with Iran, she also called for extending the waivers related to certain civilian nuclear-related activities taking place at the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, the Fordow facility and the Arak reactor. Waiver extensions are also required for the transfer of enriched uranium out of Iran in exchange for natural uranium.
For its part, Iran must reverse any steps that are inconsistent with its nuclear-related commitments, she said. While the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been unable verify the stockpile of enriched uranium in Iran, it estimates a total enriched uranium stockpile of 2,489.7 kg, including 113.8 kg enriched up to 20 per cent and 17.7 kg enriched up to 60 per cent uranium-235, respectively. These exceed the limits agreed to in the Plan of Action, she warned.
Björn Olof Skoog, briefing the Council for the European Union, in its capacity as observer, and speaking on behalf of Josep Borrell, Coordinator of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, outlined recent efforts to bring the accord back on track. Since April, all participants and the United States have engaged in intense negotiations in Vienna, but the talks were paused on 20 June, after which a new President and Government took office in Iran.
Noting that negotiations resumed on 29 November in Vienna, he said the return of the United States to the Plan of Action and resumption of commitments by both sides are the best way to verifiably assure the international community that Iran’s nuclear programme is solely dedicated to peaceful purposes. Welcoming confirmation by Iran’s new Government that it stands ready to return to full implementation, provided conditions allow for the normalization of its economic and trade relations with the international community, he also cited the commitment by the United States to engage in serious negotiations to possibly return to the accord and, given mutual compliance, potentially lift its sanctions.
Geraldine Byrne Nason (Ireland), Security Council Facilitator for the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015), reported that the Council held one meeting during the reporting period, on 7 December 2021, focused on the Vienna talks, on Iran’s ballistic missile and space vehicle launches and on broader developments relating to resolution 2231 (2015).
In the ensuing debate, delegates took the floor in a divisive discussion.
The representative of the United States said her country is prepared to return to compliance with the Plan of Action so long as Iran does the same. It is also fully prepared to lift sanctions inconsistent with the accord and reach an understanding on mutual return, if Iran approaches talks in Vienna with urgency and good faith. “The United States cannot allow Iran to accelerate its nuclear programme and slow-walk its nuclear diplomacy, which is unfortunately what is happening at the talks in Vienna,” she said. During six rounds of talks in the spring, Iran raised “new nuclear provocations”, staking out unrealistic, maximalist positions on nuclear and sanctions issues, she said, citing the position of the “P5+1” [China, France, Germany, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States] that the outcome of negotiations in Vienna is the only possible basis upon which to reach a conclusion.
Iran’s representative said the Plan of Action can only be restored and implemented if all necessary conditions are met in real terms. His country is not imposing any preconditions or new conditions. Attempts to link implementation to extraneous issues or raising ideas such as renegotiation to expand its scope or extend its timelines or proposals are totally unacceptable and doomed to fail, he observed. Iran has been completely deprived of its rights and benefits under the agreement for almost four years due to the unlawful and inhumane sanctions of the United States, which represent an all-out economic war against Iran.
He said verifiable and objective guarantees that commitments will not be torpedoed, sanctions will not be reimposed and the Plan of Action mechanisms will not be abused are “absolutely necessary”. Iran’s peaceful nuclear programme has undergone the most robust and intrusive nuclear verification ever conducted, he stressed, noting that Iran has paid a heavy price to preserve the Plan of Action.
France’s delegate said his country and other European parties to the Plan of Action have lifted European sanctions in accordance with the established timetable, opposed the withdrawal of the United States and sounded the alarm on Iran’s nuclear programme exceeding the limits outlined in the accord. Pointing out that Iran’s nuclear programme has never been more advanced than it is today, he said Iran has two options: continue on the current path of escalation that could lead to the collapse of the Plan of Action or urgently opt for a return to a broad and fair agreement. “It’s a question of weeks, not months,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Russian Federation’s delegate discouraged Western colleagues from making hasty comments about Iran’s negotiating position, which is still developing. Noting that “it is easier to break than build”, he said “the main wrecker role” was played by the United States, which left the Plan of Action in 2018. The United States continues its policy of maximum pressure on Iran, whose actions have been in reaction to those destructive steps. It is dangerous and irresponsible to say the Plan of Action is outdated. The deal is the most significant confidence-building measure at the international level, he said, and trust is impossible without it.
Germany’s delegate noted that Iran has taken extremely far-reaching steps that are incompatible with its commitments under the Plan of Action, some of which do not have plausible civilian use. Pointing out that it has curtailed IAEA monitoring activities, she urged Tehran to fully cooperate with the Agency. Germany also considers Iran’s development of ballistic missiles designed to deliver a nuclear weapon as inconsistent with Annex B to resolution 2231 (2015).
Mexico’s delegate joined other Council members that are not parties to the Plan of Action in expressing support for the agreement. The accord represents a substantial change in the way the Council addresses Iran’s nuclear programme by moving away from sanctions towards cooperation and trust. He emphasized the need to reactivate the Plan of Action without preconditions. Unilateral sanctions must be lifted, and Tehran must reassume commitments made in 2015.
Also speaking were the representatives of the United Kingdom, Viet Nam, India, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ireland, Norway, Tunisia, China, Kenya, Estonia and Niger.
The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 5:06 p.m.