Thank you very much.
We had a full day of meetings with the Foreign Ministers.
First of all, we had a good discussion on how to continue our work to preserve in full the nuclear deal with Iran. We had unanimity among Member States on the need to, on the one side, make the instrument we have put in place – INSTEX (the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) - faster and more operational to have legitimate trade with Iran. A number of Member States have shown their willingness to become shareholders of this instrument and there is also the possibility for non-Member States to join. And on the other hand], to continue working for Iran’s return to full compliance with the nuclear deal. We will continue to work within the framework of the JCPoA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) on both these tracks of work. I just came back from the region and I have seen that everybody is very much aware of the need to have the JCPoA fully in place and to have Iran fully compliant with its nuclear commitments, as it has been since the beginning until a few weeks ago.
Q. You spoke about “legitimate trade”: do you mean that at some level the INSTEX instrument will cover oil trade? On INSTEX you refer to third states: does that mean that today there is a political decision that INSTEX will be open to third countries?
INSTEX has always been conceived to be open to third countries. The Member States that have set it up with our support have always indicated that, first, we start with processing transactions coming from the Member States, and then it can be open for third countries. This is therefore not a decision that needed to be taken, it was already intended to be open to third countries and we are already seeing interest of some of them to participate in that.
The issue of whether or not INSTEX will deal with oil is a discussion that is ongoing among the shareholders.
I can tell you that for the time being we have Member States that are either already shareholders or interested in becoming so - ten Members States who are shareholders and others actively considering joining - and we have the first transactions that are being processed currently. Obviously, it takes time because INSTEX as a mechanism has to be very careful about due diligence, but the first transactions are being processed currently.
Q: On Iran – what would it take for the EU or the E3 to trigger the dispute resolution mechanism? It seems pretty clear that there is no rush to do so and it may not happen for a while, but what would it take if it does not take two violations of the nuclear deal? Last week the E3 and the EU called for an urgent meeting of the Joint Commission [on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPoA], but we still do not know when it is going to be – maybe you can enlighten us?
A meeting of the Joint Commission might come, the time and level is still to be defined. We are coordinating this obviously not only with the E3 [France, Germany, United Kingdom], but also with the other two members of the Joint Commission [Russia, China].
When it comes to the dispute resolution mechanism, Article 36 of the Agreement - it is the mechanism that is foreseen in the Agreement, in case of significant non-compliance. For the time being, none of the parties to the Agreement have signalled their intention to invoke this article, which means that none of them is – for the moment, for the time being, with the data we had in particular from the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] – considering the non-compliance a “significant” non-compliance. We have also noticed that all the steps that have been taken by Iran are technically reversible.
We regret those steps and we invite Iran to reverse them and go back to full compliance. I want to be clear on that: we want to see Iran go back to full compliance as it has been in these years.
Let me add that I have seen in my conversations with many interlocutors these days, including from the region, that everybody, including those that were more critical about the agreement, are today urging Iran to respect the deal, even those that were criticising the deal as not being effective. The reality is that the deal has prevented Iran developing a nuclear weapon. It has been effective and I think that everybody recognises that there is today no alternative to that deal. It is extremely important to keep it in place at full. I can also say that a full implementation of the Agreement to which we are definitely committed as Europeans and I would say as an international community at large, is also key in keeping the situation as calm as possible in the region and avoiding escalation in a critical region for our security.
How much money has passed through the INSTEX system already and to what extent does it cover Iranian expectations? Can you also reveal the name or the countries who are eager to join this system from outside the EU?
No, I cannot. If you ask about which entities are involved in the process I could not answer it either for protection of commercial interests in this case. And when it comes to non-EU Member States - third countries - that are interested in participating, I cannot do that. They can if they want, but it would not be appropriate for me to disclose this information from our side.
To what extent is INSTEX meeting the Iranians expectation? Also on this you should ask the Iranians and I guess you would get a clear answer. Obviously, the European Union and the Member States - because here we are talking about trade measures and trade activities that are coming from entities from EU Member States - know that all our activities would probably not compensate or not get to the level of compensation that follows the decision of the United States. Still, our intention is to try to mitigate the impact of the United States’ decision to re-impose sanctions and to stop implementing the Agreement. So we are trying our best to mitigate the impact of the US’ decision and to compensate for these decisions as far as we can in the market system we are living in.
It is complicated. It has proven to be complicated. I can tell you that when I announced INSTEX in September last year in the margins of the UN General Assembly after a Joint Commission [meeting], we definitely expected this to be faster. So it was not only an Iranian expectation back then, but it was also our expectation that it would have gone faster than it has proven to be. But the issues at stake have been particularly complicated. I think that they are now resolved. So it will, again, take some time to complete the processing of the transactions that are currently being processed, but now it is in place.
So, on Iranian expectations: we are doing our best and we hope that this will be enough for Iranian public opinion and the Iranian authorities to realise that - as much as we are committed to the full implementation of the JCPoA because we know this is in our own interest and it is in the global collective security interest of the world - it is also in the Iranian interest to go back to full compliance and preserve the JCPoA as a multilateral agreement.
Q. Especially when it comes to the United States you have been very diplomatic in your wording in relation to the Iran nuclear deal. Is there an argument that there has not been enough push-back from yourself against Washington in relation to the Iran nuclear deal? And even today we might see indications from your would-be successor, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain, Josep Borrell, that perhaps he will be a little bit tougher against the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, and his administration in terms of EU-US relations. Could you have been tougher with President Trump?
I do not want to be diplomatic but I am really saying this: the United States are our best partner and ally. Even if we disagree on some issues, we continue to work very well on others and this friendship stays.
I do not think it is a matter of being tough on one another. The point is to preserve the space for the JCPoA to remain in place. Iran has stayed fully compliant with its nuclear commitments under the JCPoA for 14 months after the US decided to withdraw from the Agreement. We have stayed compliant and the rest of the international community has stayed compliant. This has been thanks to our work.
Sometimes it is more useful to focus on the positive work you can do, on what you can do, your own measures: setting-up INSTEX, working with Russia and China in the Joint Commission, working with other partners that are commercial partners of Iran to keep the channels open, not only with Europe but also with the rest of the world, rather than entering a dispute with someone that disagrees with you on this particular topic.
My approach has always been this: rather than focusing on the negative, trying to focus on what positive you can build. And I think that for 14 months we have managed to hold all of this together. Again, as I said, even if I think this is the most dramatic and difficult time, I also think that today everybody realises that not having the JCPoA in place anymore would be a terrible option for everybody, including those that have decided to get out.
So I prefer to encourage positive developments rather than using the mental category of fighting or pushing back. At the end of the day it is an effort to hold pieces together sometimes and this is what we have been doing and this is what we will continue to do.