Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at a Joint Press Availability (Excerpts)

May 31, 2019

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FOREIGN MINISTER MAAS: [...] Iran figured also on our agenda today, the present situation in the region, but also the nuclear agreement with Iran, the JCPOA.  We agree on that we have to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.  It’s no secret that we have differences with regard to the right approach to pursue.  I explained today why, from the European standpoint, the nuclear agreement increases international security and why we believe it to be important to maintain it as long as Iran complies with the agreement – complies with the agreement.  We continue to engage on this and to stay in close touch on this issue.  Irrespective of the differences in approaches may be – we are in agreement on the objective.


SECRETARY POMPEO: [...] As Heiko said, we talked about Iran.  We’re grateful for Germany’s decision to ban Mahan Air from landing in the country.  It has been a courier for the Iranian regime and its cargo – fighters and weapons – are bound for Middle East battlefields that put Europeans and Americans and others all around the world at risk.  And with Germany currently holding a seat on the UN Security Council, it’s time to take the next step so that we can stop the Iranian torrent of destruction.  In particular, I’d like to highlight Iran’s ongoing ballistic missile activities, which are in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231.

We’re also hoping to get Germany’s help – and we talked about this today – in recognizing Hizballah as a unified entity and banning it from Germany as our ally, the United Kingdom, did this year.  And then additionally, Iran has also utterly failed to meet its commitments under the Financial Action Task Force action plan that it had agreed to, that Iran had agreed to back in 2016.  As part of that plan, Iran committed to ratify both the UN Palermo Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and the UN Terrorism Finance Convention, but, as we might expect from the world’s number one state sponsor of terror, they’ve chosen not to do that yet.  Today I call on Iran to ratify both treaties without delay and to do so without reservation.


QUESTION:  (Off-mike) the German – the efforts Germany is undertaking with other countries to install a trade mechanism with Iran, INSTEX, as a provocation?  Is – will the United States fight this mechanism, and if yes, how?

(Via interpreter)  Can you assure Iran that, Minister, that you will make that mechanism functioning even if the Americans are against it?  And have you been successful in describing your plan for a period in time once Iran has left the JCPOA?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So we’ve been pretty clear about trade with Iran.  There are items that are sanctioned and there are items that are not.  Those items that are subject to sanctions, we will do our best to enforce the American sanctions regime that is put in – has been put in place.  But for those that aren’t – for humanitarian goods, things that are permitted to move, whether they move through INSTEX or through another mechanism – those are lawful and appropriate and are permitted to continue under the sanctions laws that we’ve put in place.  And so when we think about INSTEX, if it is aimed at facilitating the movement of goods that are authorized to move, it’s unproblematic.

FOREIGN MINISTER MAAS:  (Via interpreter)  That is indeed the purpose of INSTEX, which we have initiated.  It is about organizing payment transactions for business activities and commercial deals that are legal – medicine and other vital goods that have not been subjected to sanctions.  And so far I think it does not create any problems.  We will of course also have to face up to the question how we proceed in the medium and long term.  Strategic questions with regard to Iran need to be tackled.  At the end of the day, we are working towards the same objective: we want to make sure that Iran doesn’t have any nuclear weapons; we also want to make sure that Iran responds to our claims that it does play a negative part in the region, and also we want to talk about the ballistic program of Iran.  We may be pursuing different approaches towards that objective, but as far as the objectives are concerned, it has always remained the same.  We’ve always been working towards the same objective and we hope we will be successful in achieving those goals.


QUESTION: [...] And then to both of you on Iran, has Germany offered or been asked to facilitate some kind of dialogue, of preliminary discussions between Tehran and the U.S.?  Thank you.


FOREIGN MINISTER MAAS:  (Via interpreter)  As regards Iran and the questions that come up in this context, we are in close coordination – we talk on the phone, we met a couple of days ago in Brussels, and of course we exchange information and we also talk about how we can best ensure that we achieve the objectives that we are pursuing together.  By the way, we are also cooperating closely with our other partners in the European Union.

I believe that it is good that we have that kind of dialogue and that we benefit from that kind of dialogue in order to make sure that in a very tense situation in the region at large, we can perhaps in that way also contribute in some way towards reducing tensions step by step.