Question: Today you noted the importance of preserving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Could you comment on yesterday’s statement by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that Iran has expanded its enriched uranium stocks against the backdrop of US-Iranian disagreements regarding the nuclear deal? Does this mean that the JCPOA has been wrecked?
Sergey Lavrov: Of course, we can hear the assessments of current developments, and certain questions arise. But we must grasp the entire picture in order to see what is happening today. We should not view various actions of any party to the JCPOA in isolation because this will not help us draw the right conclusions.
Yesterday, our colleagues form the European Union suggested that our missions at international organisations in Vienna pass a statement urging Iran not to violate its obligations. At the same time, the draft statement said nothing about the reasons for such actions that we are now witnessing and the decisions that have been announced in Tehran.
Bear in mind that the JCPOA is a comprehensive package of obligations and rights of all parties to this agreement. Iran’s voluntary obligations to maintain the maximum ceiling of low-enriched uranium and heavy water stocks are part of this process. This obligation is inextricably linked with Iran’s right to enrich uranium stocks to 3.67 per cent under the JCPOA and to manufacture heavy water. Iran had the right to sell surplus amounts in excess of the established ceiling. This was done rather successfully until now, including after the US withdrawal from this programme on May 10 last year. But Iran continued to maintain preset ceiling and to supply surplus amounts to countries that took them away from it, including Russia.
Not so long ago, in May of this year, the United States adopted a new package of sanctions that forbade anyone to buy Iran’s surpluses of low-grade uranium and heavy water. Thereby, the US has, in fact, forbidden all UN member states to implement the UN Security Council resolution that approved the JCPOA, which is aimed at solving the Iranian nuclear problem.
This is why it is necessary to look at the entire picture rather than focus on what Iran did today. I would like our European colleagues to realise in full measure their responsibility for preserving the JCPOA. They also have a crucial commitment under this Plan to ensure Iran’s economic interests, including opportunities to sell oil and receive sales revenue. This is an inalienable component of the agreement.
When the US withdrew from this programme and practically forbade anyone to buy oil, the Europeans volunteered to form a mechanism that would enable Iran to sell oil unhampered and receive payments without hindrance as well. We held a special meeting in Vienna in June last year and in New York in September. It took them almost a year to develop this mechanism. They announced its creation a couple of months ago, but not for trading in oil. It was only for humanitarian supplies not covered by the US sanctions and only for the EU members rather than all those willing to trade with Iran. But even with these reservations, this mechanism has failed, to date, to cater even to one single transaction.
If we speak about the need to preserve the JCPOA, this implies commitments for everyone, at least for all those who are still involved in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. But this does not mean that we can and must urge Iran to comply with all of its commitments while the rest treat them very lightly and even, as we suspect, prefer to abstain from criticising the United States and focus on what Iran is doing.
We call on our Iranian colleagues to display reserve, not to succumb to emotion under any circumstances, and to comply with the key provisions of the IAEA Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and the Additional Protocol. We also call on our European colleagues to live up to their promises and obligations and make the mechanism they have developed really effective and ensuring the rights that Iran has under the UN Security Council resolution on trade and economic ties. Unless they do this, it will be very difficult to maintain a rational and effective dialogue on preserving the JCPOA. But we will do all we can to preserve this vitally important agreement. It is of special significance not only for settling the concrete situation around Iran, which emerged several years ago and was later solved, but also for strengthening the non-proliferation regime.