Question: I have a question about the JCPOA. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that swift action is needed, because we are running out of time. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said yesterday that they were ready for that. They appear to be receiving mixed signals from the United States, but they should come up with an agreement soon. You were involved in making this deal happen. As a negotiator, have you any idea what will happen if the United States does not return to the agreement and Iran continues its nuclear programme? What is the worst-case scenario?
Sergey Lavrov: Iran is not doing anything illegal, because it is complying with the Non-Proliferation Treaty and an additional protocol to a comprehensive safeguards agreement. Iran is not complying with most of its obligations included in the JCPOA which are now not binding, because the Americans have destroyed the agreement.
The issue is about restoring it in full so that Iran has no reason to make exceptions to its commitments. The IAEA, including in the person of its Director General, is in contact with the Iranians. They have a complete picture of what is happening there. They are not being denied access to the work that Iran is doing as part of its nuclear programme. The IAEA has no reason to believe that the 2015 findings to the effect that there were no signs of the nuclear programme being re-oriented towards military needs have become outdated. They have no reason to revise these findings. They speak about this explicitly.
Of course, we want the talks on the full restoration of the JCPOA to resume as soon as possible. But, first, the government in Iran has just been formed. They say they will need a week or two (hopefully not more) to put together their negotiating team. There have been personnel changes. Second, when the United States withdrew from the JCPOA, Iran, for over a year, had been conscientiously complying with its commitments under this document in hope that the United States would come to its senses and return to the deal. Of all people, our counterparts in Washington are not in a position to say that time is up. Indeed, it was carried out by the administration which is now gone, but this is the legacy of the current administration, especially since the JCPOA is its brainchild. It is only fair that it deliver bold action in addressing all related issues.
There are also sanctions that the US has illegally imposed on Iran, allegedly for violating the JCPOA. But the sanctions concern not just Iran. They have also imposed sanctions on everyone who carry out legal trade with Iran, including the supply of military products, which are no longer subject to a ban. These sanctions must be lifted as part of the reinstatement of the JCPOA. And Iran's trading partners across all areas of commercial exchange must not be affected by America’s unilateral move.
Question: Will Iran's economy collapse if the JCPOA is not restored?
Sergey Lavrov: We are not even considering scenarios like that. There is serious hope and cautious optimism that we will be able to achieve a result. At least everyone wants it, including the United States and Iran.
Question: On the JCPOA, the United States wants to discuss the militia that Iran has plenty of around the Middle East. Will this be included into the JCPOA? And on Syria, why doesn’t Damascus allow the UN to have humanitarian trips there? I know that there is a compromise made in the UN Security Council, but it does not seem to make sense. Does Syria or Damascus think that UN workers are Trojan horses?
Sergey Lavrov: Regarding the JCPOA, all we want is for it to resume without any preconditions. Attempts to add them as a requirement to expand the talks to include the Iranian missile programme or to discuss Iran’s “behaviour” in the region, as our Western colleagues say, have no future. This is like comparing apples and oranges. The agreement on the nuclear programme is a separate subject. If there are any concerns as to someone’s behaviour, Iran’s regional partners are not the only ones to have such concerns. Teheran has its own misgivings regarding them, which is totally normal for any region of the world.
The Persian Gulf countries engage in far-reaching foreign policy activities far beyond their regions. This must be taken into consideration. In this connection, we noted that many years ago Russia drafted a Collective Security Concept for the Persian Gulf region suggesting a dialogue inspired to some degree by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. This included discussing confidence-building measures, military transparency and attending each other’s exercises, as well as engaging in positive joint projects. Political scientists from the region and other countries have already discussed this topic. In August 2021, we updated our collective security approach for the Persian Gulf region and released it as an official UN General Assembly and Security Council document. We believe that it is at a forum of this kind, and we hope that we will succeed in convening it, that we need to discuss concerns over the presence of missiles in this region, since Iran is not alone in this regard, and what kind of policies various parties follow. The conflict in Yemen is a case in point in terms of exposing the interests of Arab countries and Iran. There is a need to reach agreements. We believe that this forum should reach beyond the Gulf region. You cannot separate Iraq, Egypt and Jordan in terms of their engagement in shaping a new common platform for constructive dialogue. The Arab League, and the five permanent members of the UN Security must all be involved. Probably, the European Union will also be interested. We believe this approach to be concrete and realistic, at least I had the impression that our colleagues were interested in it. Yesterday, I met with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and they are interested in this topic. We agreed to make it a priority as we resume our ministerial contacts.