Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 27 September 2020

Iran says Europeans cannot invoke nuclear deal's dispute mechanism

Britain, France and Germany have been trying to salvage the nuclear deal

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaking during a meeting with members of Basij forces (voluntary security forces) in Tehran. EPA
Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaking during a meeting with members of Basij forces (voluntary security forces) in Tehran. EPA

Iran said Thursday that European parties to the 2015 nuclear deal could not trigger a dispute mechanism in the agreement that could lead to the reimposition of UN sanctions.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had Wednesday raised the possibility of triggering the mechanism, but Iran's foreign ministry disputed that this would be permissible.

The deal "does not allow the European parties to invoke the mechanism as Iran is exercising its legal right in response to the United States' illegal and unilateral actions," ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, quoted by semi-official news agency ISNA.

The nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has been unravelling since May 2018 when the United States unilaterally withdrew from it and began reimposing sanctions on Iran.

Britain, France and Germany - the European countries still party to the deal - have been trying to salvage it.

But the three European powers have failed to make good on the trade and investment dividends promised to Iran under the deal as they have been unable to shield Tehran from renewed US sanctions that have strangled its vital oil trade.

That has prompted Iran to renege step by step from its non-proliferation commitments under the deal. Until now the European powers have opted to hold back on triggering the mechanism, fearing it could further impede diplomatic efforts, notably by France, to defuse tensions.

On Wednesday, Mr Le Drian said that "every two months there is another notch (from Iran) to the extent that we are wondering today... about the implementation of the dispute resolution mechanism in the treaty".

"Given the succession of actions taken by the Iranian authorities, who are progressively at odds with the contents of the JCPOA, the question comes up," he added.

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman hit out at what he called the "irresponsible and unconstructive" remarks.

"It extremely discredits the effectiveness of political initiatives for the whole implementation of the JCPOA by all sides in line with the system of lifting sanctions," said Mr Mousavi.

The remaining parties to the deal meet in Vienna on December 6 to discuss how to move forward.

The mechanism involves a party referring a dispute to a Joint Commission comprising Iran, Russia, China, the three European powers, and the European Union and then on to the UN Security Council if that commission cannot resolve it.

If the Security Council does not vote within 30 days to continue sanctions relief, sanctions in place under previous UN resolutions would be reimposed - known as a "snapback".

"We have tried several initiatives that are going backwards (because) we have French (citizens) imprisoned (in Iran), we've established that regional attacks, notably on Saudi Arabia, from the Iranian authorities have been carried out," he said.

The magnitude of recent protests in Iran and the authorities' response also hampered efforts to persuade the United States to de-escalate the standoff, Le Drian said.

"It seems to prove them (the US) right in their logic of maximum pressure, given the behaviour of the Supreme Leader and President (Hassan) Rouhani towards the protesters.

Updated: November 28, 2019 06:12 PM

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