Briefing by H.E. Mr. Olof Skoog, Head of Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, on behalf of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in his capacity as the Coordinator of the Joint Commission established by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, to the Security Council on Agenda item: Non-Proliferation
- Thank you for giving me the floor. I am honoured to address 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 established by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
- I would also like to extend my gratitude to Secretary General António Guterres and H.E. Mr Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve, Ambassador of Belgium serving as Facilitator for the implementation of UNSC Resolution 2231, for the great collaboration over the past months. Additionally, I would like to convey my deep appreciation for the work done by the colleagues in the UN Secretariat, including in relation to the Procurement Channel and work to prepare the latest report of the UN Secretary General on the implementation of the UNSCR 2231.
- Today, we are witnessing a major challenge as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is under increasing pressure and we have a responsibility as members of the international community to prevent it from falling apart. The remaining parties to the JCPOA at the last Joint Commission meeting on 6 December emphasized the key importance of full and effective implementation by all sides as well as their determination to pursue all efforts to preserve the agreement.
- The reasons are clear and it is important to remember where we were before the JCPOA. The Plan rolled back Iran's nuclear programme, set strict limitations blocking Iran’s access to plutonium and high-enriched uranium and established the most robust verification mechanism by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
- Once the JCPOA was agreed more than four years ago Iran fully complied with the nuclear-related provisions for three and a half years, including for 14 months after the United States withdrew from the Plan and re-imposed unilateral sanctions. This has been verified and reported by the IAEA through the Agency's robust monitoring mechanism of the Iranian nuclear programme.
- However, earlier this year Iran decided to embark on a worrying path of decreasing its nuclear-related JCPOA commitments. This is something that the European Union deeply regrets and we strongly urge Iran to change its course of action.
- The JCPOA is a nuclear non-proliferation agreement with obligations on all parties. Alongside implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments, the lifting of sanctions allowing for the normalisation of trade and economic relations with Iran constitute essential parts of the JCPOA.
- In this regard, the EU and all the 28 member states deeply regret the withdrawal of the United States from the agreement. The US' subsequent re-imposition of unilateral sanctions and its decision to not extend waivers with regard to trade in oil are having a significant impact on Iran's economy. In addition, the US decision not to fully renew waivers for nuclear non-proliferation projects could bear significant security implications.
- The EU expresses its strong support for the continuation of key nuclear non-proliferation projects that are an essential part of the JCPOA. We welcome continued efforts by the Arak Working Group Co-Chairs, China and the United Kingdom, in taking the Arak Modernisation Project forward. We also welcome the efforts of Russia to continue implementation of the project in Fordow for the production of medical stable isotopes.
- The European Union for its part lifted its sanctions in line with its JCPOA obligations. It remains committed to work on the preservation of the agreement, including towards the objective of normalising the economic and trade relations with Iran. We welcome that efforts have been intensified in recent weeks, particularly on INSTEX, with the aim to facilitate legitimate trade with Iran, consistent with international laws and European regulations, as well as to support the needs of the Iranian population.
- We welcome the decision announced on 29 November by Belgium, Denmark, Finland, The Netherlands, Norway and Sweden to become shareholders of INSTEX along with the original shareholders, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
- The JCPOA is a key element of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture and we should not forget it was unanimously endorsed by UNSC Resolution 2231. It is the only tool available to provide the international community with the necessary assurances on Iran's nuclear programme. It is essential that we continue to preserve this tool and not let it derail into an irreparable situation.
- This is why the EU has been and continues to be resolutely committed to the JCPOA, continues to support it and is determined to work with the international community to preserve it. We should not assume that another opportunity will be presented to the international community to address Iran's nuclear programme in such a thorough manner as the one presented by the JCPOA.
- The EU has been consistent in its commitment to the continued full and effective implementation of the agreement as long as Iran abides by its commitments. This has been repeated in numerous statements.
- The course of action taken by Iran to reduce its nuclear related commitments is deeply worrying. In the statement of 11 November, together with the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany and the United Kingdom, the High Representative of the European Union expressed extreme concern for the latest step taken by Iran with regard to restarting uranium enrichment activities at Fordow.
- A number of projects are being implemented in support of JCPOA Annex III on civil nuclear cooperation, particularly in the field of nuclear safety and regulatory support. Annex III helps us get a better understanding of Iran's nuclear needs and gradually build confidence in Iran's programme. It also plays a significant role for Iran as it balances the limitations of the nuclear programme with the civil nuclear development and longer term engagement.
- Established under Annex IV of the JCPOA, the Procurement Channel remains a unique non-proliferation, transparency and confidence-building instrument. It is a key mechanism to prevent the misuse of nuclear or dual-use items and to ensure that exports of such items are consistent with the JCPOA.
- We recognise the challenges brought about by the US' withdrawal from the JCPOA and the re-imposition of sanctions. The Procurement Channel, however, remains a UN Security Council mechanism and the decision on a proposal for transfer is endorsed by all its 15 members. In the eighth Joint Commission report on the status of the Procurement Working Group’s decisions and on any implementation issues, submitted to the Facilitator on 4 December 2019 and subsequently circulated as a document of the Security Council (ref. S/2019/925), the remaining participants stated their commitment to continue reviewing proposals in an impartial and independent manner.
- In this context, it is a positive signal that the Channel keeps receiving proposals, albeit at a decreased pace.
- A substantial amount of outreach has been conducted during the past few years, and countries around the world are aware of the procedures of the Channel. Our outreach efforts will continue, together with colleagues from the UNSC Secretariat and the Facilitator. We expect that all Security Council members will continue to support the preservation of the Channel in line with Resolution 2231.
- 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 reduce tension, refrain from escalatory rhetoric and prevent a military build-up in the region. The EU has repeatedly urged Iran to refrain from activities that could deepen mistrust, such as ballistic missiles tests, which are inconsistent with UNSCR 2231.
- The EU is a strong promoter of multilateral diplomacy and continues to advocate for dialogue and constructive engagement. It is thanks to the JCPOA that the EU has been able to hold discussions with Iran on the situation in the region. The EU-led discussions together with France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom focus on exchanging views with Iran on regional stability. This dialogue as well as other channels of communications between the EU and Iran continues to be useful platforms for discussions of shared interest and concern. The absence of direct channels of communication may easily lead to spaces where the risks for misunderstandings and miscalculations thrive.
- Let us not forget what the purpose of the JCPOA is. It is a nuclear non-proliferation agreement. Let us not forget what it has been able to deliver. It kept Iran fully compliant with its nuclear related commitments for three and a half years. Let us not forget that there is no credible, peaceful alternative. That is why the EU, together with other partners of the international community, will continue to work relentlessly to preserve the JCPOA as well as call on Iran to reverse its course of action.