Iran: Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the Press Conference During his Visit to Tehran

February 4, 2020

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Thank you very much for attending this brief encounter. 

I got a mandate from the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union after the tragic events that we have been witnessing in this region since the start of the year to try to look at what we could do in order to increase the stability and the trust among actors in the region, which is very important for us Europeans. Because security and stability [in this region] affects directly our security and stability also. 

And as I was saying, the year started in a very big turmoil with tragic events, with confrontations, with decisions about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA], with the presentation of a new peace plan for the Middle East. Altogether, it has created a situation in which we Europeans, the European Union, have started contacts with all actors in order to see what we can do.

I have been visiting Iran because we cannot talk about stability in the region without taking into account Iran. But also talking with the Foreign Affairs Ministers of Saudi Arabia [Adel al-Jubeir] and of the [United Arab] Emirates [Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan], talking with the President of Iraq [Barham Salih]. I was planning to go to Iraq but it has not been possible because the new Prime Minister [Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi] was just nominated on Saturday. Also, I stopped in Jordan, where I visited the King [Abdullah II of Jordan] and the Foreign Affairs Minister [Ayman Safadi]. And I am going to go to Washington next Friday. 

We are trying to keep in touch with everybody in order to try to see what we can do, once again to stabilise the region and to create mutual understanding or at least to build trust, which is certainly lacking. That is why we have been talking today with the Iranian authorities. I have been received by the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran [Hassan Rouhani], by the President of the Parliament [Ali Larijani, Speaker of the Majlis] and by the Foreign Affairs Minister [Javad Zarif]. We have evidently talked about the JCPOA, but on that, there are no news. Nothing has happened since the last time we talked about it.

That is all, I am at your disposal if you want to ask some questions. 

Q. I guess during your meetings here in Iran you talked, of course, about the nuclear deal. So, what is your opinion or what do you think can happen finally? The European signatories of the nuclear deal activated the dispute resolution mechanism and this will go to the United Nations Security Council. Because Iran has threatened with different options. What is your opinion about this situation? How can it be solved? Is there hope or not?

The activation of the dispute resolution mechanism foreseen in the framework of the JCPOA by the three European countries - France, Germany and the United Kingdom - does not mean that these countries want to go to the Security Council [of the United Nations] in order to definitely cancel the nuclear deal. 

As far as I know -I have been talking with them, even in the last Foreign Affairs Council- all of them insisted that this is not a measure oriented to finish with the deal, but to try to keep it alive, to give time for negotiation. All of them agreed on enlarging and continuously postponing the dates and the time limits that the regulation of the JCPOA foresees. Not to go strictly through the 15 days, but we can –and it is foreseen also in the regulation- increase this time schedule and that is what we are going to do. Let us try. We can go, both sides, to the compliance of the requirements of the deal. 

In the meantime, I asked the Iranian authorities and I think they agreed, to continue with the surveillance by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is the only one that can certify what is the real state of Iran’s nuclear development. Everybody can say that they are fulfilling, that they are not fulfilling or how much they are not fulfilling - but at the end someone has to testify which is the degree of fulfilment or non-fulfilment. This is what the International Atomic Energy Agency is doing and it is doing it well, everybody trusts their analysis. And I think this has to be continued. 

We expect some positive steps on the nuclear side and Iranians expect some positive aspects on the economic side. That is what we are going to try to deal with in the next weeks. And I can say weeks or more, because, again, as I said, we are all in agreement not to go directly to a strict time limit which would oblige us to go to the United Nations Security Council. This is the most important thing I can say about it. Our will is not to start a process that ends the JCPOA, but that keeps it alive.

Q. In the past 22 months since the US withdrew from the deal, Iran has been waiting for Europe to do something tangible in terms of actions. In the past, official statements said they were getting disappointed with Europe. There were also some stances in Europe saying that we might want to discuss further things, such as the missile program, within the JCPOA if we wanted to keep this deal. Now, which way does Europe want to go? Would it be to keep the first JCPOA achieved in 2015 by activating the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges [INSTEX]? Or is there going to be some time in order to adjust further discussions on other issues, such as missile programme? 

Some voices have been asking for enlarging the scope of the deal and introducing new aspects. Personally, as coordinator [of the Joint Commission of the JCPOA], it is not my business. Coordinator of the deal is coordinator of the deal. If someone wants to enlarge the deal, okay, do it. 

My job as coordinator is to manage the deal which has been approved, not the one that may be approved. I think the first objective is to keep this deal alive. I understand the disappointment, but for [keeping the JCPOA alive] we have to prepare from both sides a better implementation of the plan.

Q. Is INSTEX going to be activated tangibly and include oil sale?

We will try to use INSTEX as much as we can. I have to recognise that until now INSTEX has not been able to produce significant transactions, but we will use INSTEX as much as we can.