Question: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, your US counterpart, said in his latest Fox News interview that the close Russia-Iran cooperation in Syria had aggravated the refugee problem in the country. In addition to this, he described this as a consequence of Russia’s refusal to withdraw from the JCPOA after the US example. How would you comment on these claims?
Sergey Lavrov: I don’t quite see the connection between the refugee problem and the US withdrawal from the JCPOA. Let me note that no one but the United States itself has left the Plan. This is why I find it hard to say why Mike Pompeo decided to formulate the ideas that came into his head at that moment in this way. Perhaps you should better ask him.
As for the problem of refugees, who, as it follows from Mr Pompeo’s statement you have just quoted, have become much more active in leaving Syria on account of Russian and Iranian actions, I cannot understand the where from of Mike Pompeo’s information. According to our data, over 310,000 refugees have returned back to Syria from abroad alone since July 2018, including over 100,000 from Lebanon and 210,000 from Jordan, this not counting the internally displaced persons, who are also returning back to their homes.
Question: Can we consider the latest statement by High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini that there is no alternative to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran, and also about the intention to develop the INSTEX payment system to sidestep US sanctions the first step in saving the Iranian nuclear deal? Will Washington’s pressure result in ultimate failure?
Sergey Lavrov: There is no alternative to the JCPOA. I don’t think anyone doubts this. That our US colleagues have a different opinion does not change this fact and life’s realities. Actually the whole world considers the plan to be the most important achievement in the last decade in terms of the non-proliferation regime. It is very dangerous to destroy this agreement. We are doing everything we can to prevent this.
Incidentally, when the US banned the purchase of Iranian oil and low-grade uranium and heavy water exports in excess of the limits established by the JCPOA, and Iran responded that it would insist on withdrawing some of its voluntary obligations, which is in keeping with the verification mechanisms of the JCPOA, the US demanded that Iran go back to meeting its commitments on the JCPOA. Israel also made similar statements. But if the US and Israel, after announcing that the JCPOA was a bad plan, now demand that Iran meet its commitments under the JCPOA, they are basically acknowledging the legitimacy of the plan. So, before making any statements on the part of the US and its supporters, it is necessary to determine their position. If it is a bad deal and the US does not intend to follow it, then the deal does not exist and no one can invoke any part of it. But if they demand that Iran follow it, then the US recognises its relevance and legitimacy.
It is important for our European colleagues as well to take a clear position on this. Yes, they say they intend to save the deal, but they are saying this primarily to Iran. In a situation where the US does not do anything and forbids others to cooperate with Iran, and the EU does not meet its obligations in full, it is unreasonable to expect Iran to save the situation by itself.
The European Union made the right move when it launched INSTEX, a system for money transaction services. Regrettably, INSTEX can only be used for humanitarian supplies so far, such as food and medications, which the US does not ban anyway.
Two days ago I met with EU Ambassador to Russia Markus Ederer. Several million dollars in transactions have come through this system so far.
This is nothing compared to the obligations undertaken by Iran’s partners under the JCPOA. They involve unrestricted purchases of Iranian oil and the unrestricted transfer of payments for oil.
I hear that our European colleagues are saying that their conscience is clear, that they have done all they can and now Russia and China should persuade Iran to maintain its obligations. According to the agreement, Iran is to enrich uranium only to a certain level and keep the stock on its territory under 300 kilograms. As for excess volume, Iran had the right to export it and this took place until recently. This was the key point of the agreement because Iran wanted to guarantee its right to uranium enrichment technology. This is an inalienable right of any signatory of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The fact that it was made part of the agreement was a key element in the compromise. When the US in fact forbids everyone from following the UN Security Council’s resolution, it is unfair to point a finger at Iran and say that everything depends on you now, while they have launched the INSTEX mechanism and can relax.
We are continuing our dialogue with the EU three, our Chinese friends and Iran. We are planning to call a joint commission of JCPOA participants, without the US, of course. We will aim at finding real and not symbolic ways to provide Iran with economic benefits that are an integral part of this, as it is commonly called now, deal.