Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UN Security Council briefing under agenda item "Non-proliferation"
I would like to thank Under-Secretary-General Ms.Rosemary DiCarlo, Head of the EU delegation at the UN Mr.Olof Sloog, and facilitator of the 2231 format, Permanent Representative of Ireland Ambassador Byrne Nason for their briefings.
The backdrop of this meeting is different from that we had 6 months ago. The US has left behind its illegitimate attempts to re-impose UN sanctions on Iran and introduce an unprecedentedly strict arms embargo against that country via the Security Council. The Council almost unanimously rejected those destructive approaches. At the beginning of this year, our US colleagues officially revoked their illegitimate claims to trigger a snapback. So this episode finally came to a close.
The diplomatic process aimed at restoring full-fledged operation of JCPOA runs in full swing in Vienna. We can already see the outline of future agreements. There is a shared understanding how to proceed towards the set goals.
The recent report of the Secretary-General sends another signal indicating that the overall dynamic is improving as compared to the previous year. The report confirms that 2231 regime remains effective. No extraordinary incidents that could affect it were reported. In this regard, I would like to stress the conclusion which the Secretary-General makes in para.7 of the report. It reads that in the reporting period, the SG did not detect any violations regarding the supply to the Islamic Republic of Iran of nuclear-related items undertaken contrary to para.2 of annex B to resolution 2231 (2015), and that the SG did not receive any official information regarding transfers undertaken contrary to para.4 of annex B to resolution 2231 (2015), including on ballistic missile-related transfers from the Islamic Republic of Iran (para.9 of the report). Let me underscore that these are conclusions of the Secretary-General, not of the Russian Federation.
To address claims of some member states, we prepared a letter where we gave a detailed explanation why the allegations of our Western partners regarding Iran’s ballistic program were groundless. Those are simply highly-likely-style allegations. They did not provide any concrete facts. The Secretary-General confirms this. Therefore it was twice as strange and out of place to hear the US representative pronounce accusations of violating missile provisions of resolution 2231, since the US itself continues to violate this resolution.
Report of the facilitator of 2231 format was generally well-balanced. For that, we should give credit to the efforts of the Irish facilitator Ambassador Byrne Nason and her team. We had some critical comments regarding this document, but for the sake of upholding the constructive spirit and prioritizing unity of 2231 format, we decided to join the evolving consensus.
Any stabilization process needs time and cannot be a “smooth ride”. Unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the JCPOA and its subsequent steps to undermine the deal left behind huge piles of rubble. It would be naïve to think that we would be magically able to “clear them out” within several days or weeks. We must all be realists. It takes patience, self-command, and political will of all stakeholders to restore the normal work of the JCPOA.
For many by now we have appealed to the common sense of our partners, trying to make clear our very simple logic. If our task is to come to an agreement, we must not demonize Iran and call it a source of all trouble.
Iran is an equal partner that has its interests, concerns, its own understanding of national security risks. Being a sovereign state, it is perfectly entitled to all that. When it comes to international relations, states do not have to like each other. But they have to treat each other with respect. As we all know, par in parem non habet imperium. If this principle is observed in relations with Iran, settlement will proceed much easier.
The goal of the JCPOA was to acknowledge that Iran’s nuclear program was nothing different from similar programs of any other member of the NPT that does not possess nuclear weapons. Other provisions of the deal, including the special regime of arms transfer to/from Iran that has expired by now, had the same objective: gradually restore the normal mode of interaction with Iran as with any other UN member state. Importantly, the current UNSG report also articulates a call to member states to boost normal commercial cooperation with Iran, including through INSTEX mechanisms and the Procurement Channel of the JCPOA Joint Commission.
But some our colleagues call for the opposite: to renew restrictions for Iran’s nuclear activity, keep unilateral sanctions on transfers of conventional weapons that violate resolution 2231. Occasionally we even hear veiled hints implying that we need to readdress the JCPOA or somehow expand it by means of regional security aspects.
I remind that resolution 2231 never had a goal to deter Iran. It was always about normalizing international economic, scientific and technical cooperation with Iran, i.a. in the area of atoms for peace, once the IAEA should lift its remaining issues. The final report on this topic was issued in December 2015, its conclusions were anchored in a corresponding resolution of the IAEA Board of Governors. Lifting of questions to Tehran, as well as the regime of transparency of Iran’s nuclear program (through implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Safeguards Agreement) were the key achievements of the JCPOA in the area of non-proliferation. The malfunctions in this field that we have today have been the direct result of US destructive action aimed at undermining the JCPOA. The cause-and-effect relationship is like this. All steps that Iran took to temporarily “freeze” its obligations were not willful violations as some our colleagues try to depict them. Those steps were the result of US non-compliance with the deal. Although fuzzily, this conclusion is also reflected in the recent SG report.
Unfortunately, we still do not see the decisions of the previous US Administration being reconsidered. The US side continues its policy of maximum pressure on Iran and continues to violate UNSC resolution 2231, i.a. by keeping unilateral restrictions and arms embargo regime against Iran, even though all UN restrictions on that matter are no longer effective. We regret that the escalation reduced the scope of IAEA inspections in Iran. But what is important, all steps made by Iran are reversible, the fact that the IAEA confirmed repeatedly. It is no less important that Iran continues dialogue with the Agency and does not abandon its obligations in terms of non-proliferation.
Now to regional security in the Persian Gulf. This topic is crucial, but – I emphasize this – it goes beyond our discussions of the situation around JCPOA. This is rather a topic for future deliberations, when the deal is entirely back on track.
You are well aware of our idea to launch regional dialogue on security issues in the Persian Gulf region. We presented a full account of it during an open session of UNSC on this issue that convened in October last year under the Russian Presidency. We believe we need concrete steps that should strengthen mutual trust, help prevent crises and mitigate risks of an armed confrontation, misconception and escalation. We could look into other regions’ experience of building confidence. At the same time, security issues that exist for the Persian Gulf must be addressed by the regional states in the first place. We have taken note of a similar call contained in Secretary-General’s report, where he urges to create favorable conditions for diplomatic efforts in Vienna and abstain from provocative rhetoric and acts that may undermine those efforts. We also noted his point that issues related to broader regional security should be considered without reference to the need to preserve the JCPOA and its achievements.
We need a calm and pragmatic conversation today as never before. It is not the time for us to “up the stakes” and inflate emotion. There is no alternative to the JCPOA. We must be conscious of that. Let’s for just one second imagine the world without the deal. Will it be safer for anyone than the world we have now?
Fortunately, we all seem to share an understanding of importance of the JCPOA. So we need to mainstream all our efforts to recovering this deal. This is what the UN Secretary-General calls for in his report. In practical terms it means that the United States must immediately get back to complete observation of the demands stipulated in resolution 2231 and the JCPOA. And the Iranian side must promptly respond to those steps and “unfreeze” all previous obligations that they put on hold, first of all those relating to transparency of the nuclear program and cooperation with the IAEA.
As for the other participants of the deal, they need to promote rapprochement of positions. Our primary duty now is to help the colleagues in Vienna. Russia is ready to do what it takes. In that, we count on robustness and support of other Council members.