Libya/Iraq/Iran: Press Remarks by High Representative Josep Borrell After the Extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council (Excerpts)

January 10, 2020

Good evening,

It was an extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council, and as you know we have discussed the recent developments in Iraq, in Iran and Libya.

We had exchanges about the EU actions towards de-escalation – because this is right now the key priority: de-escalation. To avoid that things go worse.

We had a valuable input from the United Nations Special Representative for Libya Mr [Ghassan] Salamé and NATO Secretary General Mr [Jens] Stoltenberg.

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We are also committed to preserving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Without the JCPOA, Iran would be a nuclear power today. Thanks to this deal, Iran is not a nuclear power. We strongly believe that it is in our interest to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as far as we can. We have been saying in the past and we continue saying that we regret the United States decision to withdraw from the deal. We continue believing that this deal is a key element of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture and critical for the regional stability.

We call on Iran to go back to full compliance to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action without delay and we rely on the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] to continue monitoring and verifying Iran’s [nuclear] activities. We strongly believe in the capacity of the IAEA to be able to monitor all Iranian activities on the nuclear field.

But the current situation has a clear regional dimension that requires a regional political solution. The ministers have given me a strong mandate to carry out diplomatic efforts with all parties, including Iran, to contribute to de-escalation in the region, to support political dialogue and to promote a political regional solution. In this framework, we will continue helping Iraq from every point of view: with the military training, economics, for security.

We have to avoid that the spiral of violence creates a situation in Iraq that can be very dangerous for all of us and destroys years of work and efforts in the rebuilding of this country. That is what we have been agreeing today and it opened the door to more work, especially on the implementation of the mandate [I received from Foreign Ministers] of strong dialogue with all parties, including Iran, in order to look for a political regional solution.

Q&A

Q: Did you discuss today the Dispute Resolution Mechanism within the JCPOA and do you believe it should be triggered and if so when?

We have not discussed if the Dispute Resolution Mechanism has to be triggered or not. What is clear, is that we stick to the survival of this deal.

Q: You are saying that you are still committed to save the JCPOA. While you were in the meeting, the US Treasury put more sanctions on Iran and threatened European firms that would work with INSTEX with sanctions. What would be your reaction to that? On the Ukrainian plane crash in Iran: did you receive any intelligence from the European countries about the fact that Iran might have accidentally taken down this plane? Are you going to commit to the ongoing investigation?

On the JCPOA I repeat: we are willing to maintain this deal and for that we need Iran to fulfil its commitments.

INSTEX is a mechanism that was conceived to allow economic operators to carry out [legitimate] economic transactions with Iran without being impacted by the US sanctions. Nothing has changed from this point of view. In order to keep the JCPOA alive, we need Iran to go back to the fulfilment of its commitments.

We have been talking about everything on the Iran situation. There is no news I can share with you on the crash of the Ukrainian plane. All hypothesis are open, there is an investigations taking place and we need the investigators to do their work. I cannot tell you what are the causes. I know that some leaders have been advancing the possibility of an accident, but I do not know and it would be irresponsible from my side to advance news about such a sensitive issue without having any concrete information.

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Q: Did you discuss any new ways to preserve the JCPOA, for example getting Iran back to the table? Or also a new type of deal that the United States could get behind?

On the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, it is clear that we, Europeans, have a completely different position than the United States. The United States do not want this deal and it is very clear. They withdrew unilaterally form the JCPOA and we have not withdrawn. We are still there and we try to continue working in order for this deal not to go to the [UN] Security Council and be cancelled. So, on that, we have a different position.

Q: Vous appelez l’Iran à revenir à la table du JCPOA. Appelez-vous aussi les Etats Unis à revenir dans cet accord ? Quelles sont les mesures que vous comptez prendre pour contrer les sanctions extraterritoriales américaines qui font l’effet de la pression maximale ? Vous avez évoqué le fait de renforcer l’effort européen envers l’Irak, notamment en matière de soutien à l’effort de sécurité. Est-ce que vous allez proposer ou est-ce que les irakiens vous ont demandé de renforcer par exemple les missions de la Politique de Sécurité et de Défense Commune de l’Union européenne sur place ?

We will talk about it on Monday with the Deputy Foreign Minister of Iraq …sorry I will speak French… et il va y avoir des contacts avec le nouveau gouvernement de l’Irak quand il sera formé. J’ai parlé [hier] avec le Premier Ministre [Adil Abdul-Mahdi] qui est en ce moment [le Premier Ministre] d’un gouvernement d’affaires courantes. Tout le monde au Conseil aujourd’hui était bien conscient de l’importance [de continuer] d’aider à la stabilité, à l’intégrité territoriale et au développement et aux réformes en Irak, de façon à ne pas perdre tout le travail effectué jusqu’à présent.

On the JCPOA, we want to save this deal if it is possible. Nobody assures you that it is possible. To negotiate a new agreement is a very complex, highly technical process which takes a long time.

The deal that was negotiated, from the technical point of view, is very solid, it contains clear conditions and guarantees with independent monitoring and serves as an example of what can be achieved by diplomatic engagement, if all parties remain committed to its implementation.

We regret that the United States decided to withdraw unilaterally from this agreement. And we do whatever we can [to preserve it]. INSTEX [the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges] is one of the tools that we are building in order to allow continuous [legitimate] economic transactions with Iran. It is true that until now it has not worked, not yet.

Maybe we cannot avoid that the JCPOA is finally cancelled, because the Dispute Resolution Mechanism can be triggered and I cannot exclude that this does happen. But in the Council today, the general understanding is that [there is] an engagement to avoid that this happens.

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