Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 5 August 2020

US threatens China and Russia with UN isolation if Iran arms ban blocked

Russia and China signalled that they oppose extending arms embargo on Iran, which is due to expire in October

Brian Hook, US Special Representative for Iran, warned Russia and China will be isolated at the United Nations if they block a US bid to extend a weapons ban on Iran. Reuters
Brian Hook, US Special Representative for Iran, warned Russia and China will be isolated at the United Nations if they block a US bid to extend a weapons ban on Iran. Reuters

Russia and China will be isolated at the UN if they continue down the “road to dystopia” by blocking a US bid to extend a weapons ban on Iran, US Iran envoy Brian Hook said.

The 13-year arms restrictions on Iran are due to expire in October under the terms of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Russia and China have indicated that they oppose extending the embargo.

While Washington has long argued that the embargo should not be lifted, the international community has been waiting for it to formally for an extension.

Mr Hook and the US ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, on Wednesday made the case behind closed doors on why the 15-member council should support a draft resolution extending the embargo.

“We see a widening gap between Russia and China and the international community,” Mr Hook said on Tuesday evening, before the meeting.

“Russia and China were isolated at the [International Atomic Energy Agency] last week and they will be isolated in the Security Council if they continue down this road to dystopia."

The IAEA’s 35-nation board of governors on Friday called on Iran to allow the UN nuclear watchdog access to two sites suspected of nuclear weapons activities, and to co-operate fully.

Iranian allies Russia and China opposed that move but could not block it, whereas they have the power of veto at the Security Council.

A council resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by the US, China, Russia, Britain or France to pass.

“There is no possibility for its adoption,” a Chinese diplomat said after Mr Hook and Ms Craft briefed council envoys.

“The US draft resolution is in essence a continuation of the US maximum pressure policy [on Iran] and it has no value or basis for discussion.”

This month, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called on Russia and China to resist Washington’s push, pledging to “increase our defence capabilities, as we have been doing so even under sanctions".

“Extending the arms embargo is the right and necessary thing to do and every member of the Security Council knows this whether they say this publicly or not,” Mr Hook said.

“The embargo has not prevented all Iranian weapons transfers, but the export and import bans have been effective at establishing clear limits on Iran’s behaviour."

The US circulated the draft resolution on Monday.

This month, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres reported to the council that cruise missiles used in attacks on oil installations and an international airport in Saudi Arabia last year were of “Iranian origin".

If the US is unsuccessful in extending the embargo, it has threatened to trigger a return of all UN sanctions on Iran under a process agreed to in the 2015 nuclear deal, even though Washington quit the accord in 2018.

Such a move would kill the nuclear deal, promoted by the US and others in 2015 as a way to stop Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, and diplomats say the US would face a tough battle in the council.

The US says it can trigger the sanctions because a UN resolution enshrining the 2015 nuclear deal still names Washington as a party to it.

Iran has breached parts of the nuclear deal in response to the US withdrawal and Washington’s reimposition of sanctions.

Mr Rouhani said on Wednesday that Tehran would be open to talks with the US if Washington apologised for leaving the deal and compensates Tehran.

“We are happy to engage in conversations with them when the time is right, but the conditions that suggest somehow we give a bunch of money to the Iranians so they can foment terror around the world is simply ludicrous,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday.

Updated: June 26, 2020 12:42 AM

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