Briefing by Ambassador Skoog—United Nations Security Council: Non-Proliferation (JCPOA/Iran)

Briefing by H.E. Ambassador Olof Skoog, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, on Behalf of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
June 30, 2021

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear
  • Missile

Mr President,

Thank you for giving me the floor. It is an honour to be addressing the Council today on behalf of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Mr Josep Borrell, in his capacity as Coordinator of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). 

My first expression of gratitude and thanks goes to Secretary General António Guterres and to the Secretariat for its steadfast dedication and professionalism in preparing the 11th report on the implementation of the Security Council resolution 2231.

I also want to thank H.E. Geraldine Byrne Nason, Ambassador of Ireland, for her work as a new Facilitator for the implementation of Resolution 2231 and for the excellent cooperation during the past period and I look forward to our continued collaboration.

Since my last statement, six months ago, a new level of optimism can be discerned given that the diplomatic environment surrounding the Plan of Action has improved. At the same time, there are serious concerns despite this new optimism.

Mr President,

The Joint Comprehensive plan of Action - now almost 6 years of age - is the fruit of effective multilateralism and a token of the important work done by members of the international community and by this chamber in particular. The JCPOA has withstood significant pressure over the past years, since the withdrawal of the US from the agreement in 2018, the re-instatement of sanctions as well as successive steps by Iran inconsistent with the agreement. During this time, the remaining JCPOA participants have demonstrated their conviction to work diplomatically to preserve the deal. However, the agreement is still at a critical stage and needs to be urgently restored and fully implemented. This is a common responsibility that needs to be nurtured and protected by all of us.

Since our last discussion on the implementation of UNSCR 2231 in this Council, our efforts to ensure full JCPOA implementation by all sides have intensified. To this end, we welcome the engagement of all JCPOA participants since early April in Vienna under the auspices of the Joint Commission, which the High Representative coordinates, as well as the separate contacts with the United States. Let me also take the opportunity to thank the Austrian authorities to provide the facilities and a conducive environment for the success of our diplomatic efforts in line with all necessary COVID19 protocols.

Beyond this, the High Representative has spared no efforts and has been in close touch with all JCPOA participants and the US calling for the necessary flexibility to take the difficult political decisions needed for bringing the JCPOA back on track. It is clear that time is not on our side and that what might be possible still today may prove impossible in the near future. We have a limited diplomatic window ahead of us that we should not miss. The efforts of all relevant parties speak to the importance and the value of the JCPOA.  They are a solid evidence of the need to continue multilateral diplomacy, sustain, and support multilateral agreements and institutions.

In this context, the European Union welcomes the declared intention of the United States to re-join the JCPOA and we feel encouraged by their expressed readiness to lift the JCPOA related sanctions in line with the provisions of the nuclear deal.

The EU remains fully committed to the JCPOA and is determined to continue working with the international community to preserve it. At the same time, we remain deeply concerned about Iran’s continued accumulation of low enriched uranium in excess of the JCPOA thresholds. At the moment, Iran is the only Non-Nuclear Weapon State to produce 60% uranium. Of particular concern are also Iran’s continued R&D with advanced centrifuges, as well as activities with uranium metal. These activities are inconsistent with the JCPOA. They also raise serious non-proliferation concerns, particularly following Iran’s decision to suspend the implementation of the Additional Protocol and JCPOA transparency provisions, which has substantially decreased IAEA access to key information about Iran’s nuclear programme. We call on Iran to reverse these activities and return to full implementation of its commitments without delay.

It is crucial that Iran fully cooperates with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The necessary verification and monitoring activities including transparency measures foreseen under the JCPOA need to be restored. In addition, Iran should fully and promptly cooperate with the IAEA on the four outstanding safeguards-related issues which have been raised to the attention of the IAEA Board of Governors and provide the necessary clarifications.  Let me stress the EU’s deep appreciation for the work and the professionalism of the IAEA. Its impartial and technical work is of utmost importance and is a cornerstone for the credibility of the JCPOA.

We take note of Iran’s reaffirmed position that it is ready to return to full JCPOA implementation. I remain optimistic that sufficient space for diplomacy will continue to be granted in order to be able bring the JCPOA back on a path of full implementation in the very near future.

We need to acknowledge the strain put on the JCPOA by the lack of concrete economic benefits expected by Iran in exchange for agreeing and implementing the JCPOA. The US withdrawal from the JCPOA back in 2018 and its re-imposition of JCPOA-related sanctions created a significant challenge for Iran as well as economic operators worldwide to continue to engage in business relations, not least to maintain banking and payment channels. The EU for its part lifted all its nuclear related sanctions upon the conclusions of the deal in 2015 and spared no efforts to maintain and promote economic and trade relations with Iran. This includes support for setting up and making operational the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) set up by European countries  to allow for legitimate trade exchanges to continue.

Mr President,

The work of the Procurement Channel remains important as an independent and transparent UN Security Council mechanism. I am pleased to note that the Channel continues to be used and that one new proposal has been transmitted to the Security Council for decision and endorsement during the reporting period, while another proposal that was under review during the preceding reporting period has also been recommended for approval. The report of the Procurement Channel Working Group [S/2021/578] provides evidence of the channel as an important confidence building measure that gives assurances to Member states and private sector actors that transfers of goods and services for civil nuclear purposes are fully in line with the UNSC Resolution 2231. The EU will continue to promote the use of the Procurement Channel, which, while enabling the trade of relevant items with Iran, ensures the consistency of relevant transfers with the JCPOA.

At the same time, I am also pleased to note that EU-Iran cooperation on the civil nuclear field under JCPOA Annex III, particularly in the area of nuclear safety, continues despite COVID challenges. Civil nuclear cooperation not only helps build a better understanding of Iran’s civil nuclear needs but also promotes cooperation in areas, such as nuclear safety, that are critical for the safety of Europe and the region.

While the JCPOA addresses nuclear non-proliferation aspects, a series of events outside the nuclear domain are increasingly worrying. The EU continues to urge all actors to refrain from activities and escalatory rhetoric that enhance regional and international tension and fuels military build-up in the region. The EU has repeatedly urged Iran to desist from activities that could deepen mistrust, such as ballistic missiles tests and space vehicle launches, which are inconsistent with UNSCR 2231.

Mr President,

In conclusion, let us make the best of the ongoing diplomatic efforts aimed at a return by the US to the JCPOA and a full implementation of the JCPOA by all sides. Continued perseverance, flexibility and pragmatism provide the basis for a solid and sustainable framework that is a cornerstone for effective multilateral diplomacy. The JCPOA continues to be a key component of the global non-proliferation architecture that helps reduce regional and global security risks.

Thank you.