Accord on Iran’s Nuclear Programme Remains on Track, Political Affairs Chief Tells Security Council

SC/12894
29 June 2017
7990th Meeting (PM)

Accord on Iran’s Nuclear Programme Remains on Track, Political Affairs Chief Tells Security Council

The United Nation’s political chief this afternoon told the Security Council that the 2015 accord on Iran’s Nuclear Programme known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action remained on track, calling on all participants in the agreement to continue to commit to its full implementation.

“Two years after the conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Secretary-General is deeply encouraged by the continued commitment by all participants to the agreement,” Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told the Security Council about the progress of the accord.

The meeting on progress on the accord — agreed between by China, France, Germany, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States and Iran — also heard briefings from João Pedro Vale de Almeida, Head of the Delegation of the European Union, and Sebastiano Cardi of Italy, Facilitator for the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015), by which the 15-member Council endorsed the accord.

Introducing the Secretary-General’s latest report on the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015) through which the Council endorsed the accord, Mr. Feltman said reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) continued to show Iran’s compliance with parts of the agreement under its purview and the Secretary-General had not received any information regarding the supply to Iran of nuclear-related items undertaken contrary to the provisions of the resolution.

In regard to letters submitted by Member States regarding Iran’s 29 January 2017 medium-range ballistic missile launch, he said there was no consensus in the Council on how it related to resolution 2231 (2015).  He quoted the Secretary-General, however, on the need to avoid any more such launches.

In regard to an arms shipment seized in the North Indian Sea by the French Navy in March 2016, he stated that the Secretariat’s investigation concluded that the weapons were indeed shipped from Iran.  Other possible incidents were under discussion and related information had been sent by a number of countries but had not been independently confirmed.

“The world would not be a safer place without the Joint Action Plan,” Mr. Almeida said in his briefing.  Iran’s macroeconomic performance had shown great improvement due to trade and investment.  He described the activities of the procurement mechanism as well as projects being done by the European Union with Iran, focused on nuclear safety and related areas.  He called for rigorous implementation of commitments by all sides.

Mr. Cardi described requests to the procurement mechanisms and his group’s discussions on Iran’s ballistic missile launch in relation to resolution 2231 (2015).  He said that one view emphasized the ambiguity of the resolution in regard to which types of missiles were constructed in a manner as to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.  Another maintained that the launch involved a system that was, by design, capable of delivering a nuclear warhead, so its use was inconsistent with resolution 2231 (2015).

Following those briefings, country representatives took the floor to make statements on the report.  Most welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on progress in implementation, but also expressed varied degrees of concern over the reports of Iran’s launch of a ballistic missile, shipment of arms and violation of a travel ban.  They stressed the importance of complete compliance with all of the provisions of the nuclear accord and resolution 2231 (2015), while calling for issues such as a ballistic missile launch to be dealt with through diplomatic means that did not undermine the accord.

The representative of the United States, however, warned that her country was ready to reinstitute some bilateral sanctions if what she called Iran’s destructive behaviour continued, listing violations cited in the reports as well as support for terrorism and other destabilizing behaviour.  She likened the country to the scorpion in the fable that could not help killing the frog transporting it across a pond because of its destructive nature.

The representative of the Russian Federation, on the other hand, stressed that the Plan of Action should serve as a basis for cooperation and not a source of confrontation.  He flagged concerns over some elements of the Secretary-General’s report, including its calls on Iran to avoid ballistic missile launches.  He described the conclusion that seized weapons were of Iranian origin as “dubious” in nature, adding that politicizing the reports would undermine the nuclear accord.

Representatives of France, Kazakhstan, Egypt, China, Uruguay, Ukraine, Japan, Sweden, Ethiopia, Senegal, United Kingdom, Italy, Bolivia and Germany also spoke.

The meeting began at 3:54 p.m. and ended at 5:43 p.m.

Briefings

JEFFREY FELTMAN, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said, “Two years after the conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Secretary-General is deeply encouraged by the continued commitment by all participants to the agreement.  The accord — reached by Iran and the E3/EU+3 [China, France, Germany, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the United States, with the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy] on 14 July 2015 — is the embodiment of successful multilateral diplomacy, political will and perseverance.”  It was imperative, therefore, that the participants in the accord, the United Nations and the international community continue to support its full implementation, he added.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports since Implementation Day, 16 January 2016, had shown Iran’s continued implementation of its nuclear-related commitments, he said.  The 25 April meeting of the Joint Commission in Vienna noted the continued adherence to the agreement’s commitments by all participants, he stressed, adding that full implementation would bring forth to a satisfactory conclusion the consideration of the Iranian nuclear issue by the Security Council and guarantee that its nuclear programme remained exclusively peaceful.

Introducing the Secretary-General’s latest report on the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015), through which the Security Council endorsed the accord, he said that the Secretary-General had not received any reports or open-source information regarding the supply, sale or transfer to Iran of nuclear-related items undertaken contrary to the provisions of the resolution.  He also welcomed the fact that Member States were making greater use of the procurement channel.  Of 16 proposals submitted since the Implementation Day, 10 were approved by the Council, 2 were withdrawn by the proposing States and 4 were currently under review.  He welcomed the cooperation between the Security Council and the Procurement Working Group.

In regard to letters submitted by Member States regarding Iran’s 29 January 2017 medium-range ballistic missile launch, he said there was no consensus in the Council on how it related to resolution 2231 (2015).  He quoted the Secretary-General, however, on the need to avoid more such launches to avoid an increase in regional tensions.  In regard to an arms shipment seized in the North Indian Sea by the French Navy in March 2016, the Secretariat’s investigation concluded that the weapons were indeed shipped from Iran.  The participation of Iran’s Defence Industries Organization in exhibitions held in Iraq was also under discussion and would be included in future reports.

The Secretariat, in addition, had not been able to independently corroborate information provided to the Secretary-General by Israel, Lebanon, South Africa, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States and Yemen related to implementation of resolution 2231 (2015).

JOÃO PEDRO VALE DE ALMEIDA, Head of the European Union delegation, delivered a statement on behalf of the bloc’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who was Coordinator of the Joint Commission established by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  Noting that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action had been properly implemented and was delivering on its objectives, he added that the results were clear and spoke for themselves:  Iran’s nuclear programme had been rolled back and placed under tight inspections.  Furthermore, Iran’s macroeconomic performance, due to trade and foreign direct investment (FDI), had shown great improvement and oil production had returned to pre-sanction days.

As well, tourism was being revived and key infrastructure and investment deals were being developed, including with Airbus and Boeing, he continued.  The Action Plan’s implementation was an ongoing task and its complexity and the wide scope of the agreement as well as the challenges were evident.  However, the rigorous implementation of commitments by all sides continued to be the best way to build trust, strengthen the Plan and overcome the hurdles that were part of all comprehensive and far-reaching deals.

In regards to Annex III which addressed civil-nuclear obligations, he emphasized that the text was the key in the overall balance of the agreement and essential for the overall objective of ensuring the exclusive peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear programme.  The Union was already engaging with Iran in a number of projects, mostly focused on nuclear safety.  As well, Iranian nuclear experts and scientists were being invited to participate in civil-nuclear activities and conferences of nuclear safety regulators.

Turning to the Procurement Working Group, he said that establishing a new authorization mechanism, which entered into force after a long prohibition period, had not been an easy task.  However, the first proposals received through the Procurement Channel had been reviewed and approved.  Furthermore, the number of proposals and the number of countries submitting proposals were steadily increasing.  On 12 June, the Coordinator of the Working Group submitted its third bi-annual report to the Facilitator, on behalf of the Joint Commission, offering an overview of the Working Group’s activities from 23 December 2016 to 12 June 2017.  “The world would not be a safer place without the JCPOA [Joint Action Plan],” he stated, and he called upon all other parties to remain committed to its full implementation.  It was essential to continue building trust, strengthening multilateral diplomacy and reinforcing non-proliferation, while promoting regional peace and stability.

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy), speaking in his capacity as Facilitator for the implementation of Council resolution 2231 (2015), recalled that IAEA reports had verified that Iran had taken the actions specified in Annex V of the Joint Comprehensive Plan.  In addition, the Agency had indicated that on 21 January, Iran, under IAEA verification and monitoring, had begun feeding natural UF6 into a single IR-8 centrifuge for the first time.  In both reports, the Agency had affirmed, among other things, that Iran had not pursed construction of the existing Arak heavy water research reactor based on its original design; had no more than 130 metric tonnes of heavy water, and had not conducted any uranium enrichment or related research and development activities.

However, on 2 March at the 2231 format meeting the experts of one Member State had observed that the medium-range ballistic missile tested by Iran on 29 January was designed to carry a payload greater than 500 kg to a range of 1,000 km.  That was the approximate mass required to carry a first generation nuclear weapon and 300 km was an internationally-accepted range of strategic significance.  The test therefore was constituted as an activity related to ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons.  The regional implications and the launch’s relation to resolution 2231 (2015) were discussed, with one representative emphasizing that the resolution had not provided a definition as to which types of missiles were constructed in a manner as to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.  Other delegates said that the text concerned intrinsic capability rather than intent.  “Since the launch involved a system that was, by design, capable of delivery a nuclear warhead, its use was therefore inconsistent with resolution 2231 (2015),” he said.

There was no consensus on that particular launch, he continued, stressing that it was essential the Security Council act in a unified manner in order to foster the effective implementation of the resolution.  It was also of great importance that all parties continue to build trust and implement the Plan and the resolution.  He also noted, among other things, that since Implementation Day, a total of 16 proposals to participate in or permit the activities set forth in the resolution’s paragraph 2 of annex B had been submitted to the Council by four Member States from three different regional groups, including States who were not participants of the Plan.  “That shows the growing confidence of Member States in the procurement channel,” he noted, adding that he planned on engaging new outreach activities on the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015), including an open briefing for Member States on the text and its implementation.

Statements

NIKKI R. HALEY (United States) said that the Secretary-General’s report was full of descriptions of destructive and destabilizing actions by Iran, many of which violated the nuclear agreement.  Those included ballistic missile launches, arms smuggling, support for terrorist groups and for the Assad Government’s use of chemical weapons on its own people and travel by persons specifically banned from doing so.  Many violations had been reported widely and included in the Secretary-General’s report, but had been ignored by the Council. 

The Council must stand strictly behind the provisions of resolution 2231 (2015), she said.  The United States would not turn a blind eye to violations and would work with partners to interdict sanctioned goods and impose its own necessary sanctions.  The continuance of Iran’s destructive behaviour would keep it from fully joining the community of nations.  Citing Iran’s threats to Israel following a cross-border missile launch recently, she said that the statements were not those of a good international citizen, but those of a scorpion, referring to the fable in which a frog is stung to death by a scorpion as they travelled across a pond, causing them both to die, with the scorpion explaining that it was his nature to be destructive.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), reviewing the foundations of the current international security and non-proliferation system, said that the nuclear agreement with Iran was a strong response to a major proliferation crisis.  It was an historic agreement and the international community had a responsibility to make sure that it lasted.  He noted IAEA’s reporting on Iran’s continued following the portions of the agreement in its purview.  He also described the opening of trade and bilateral agreements between Iran and his country.

However, he cautioned, the establishment of an atmosphere of trust required participants to abide by all provisions of the agreement.  In that context, France had condemned the recent ballistic missile launch by Iran.  The seized arms shipment was also in violation of resolution 2231 (2015).  It was essential that such activities ceased.  He anticipated further formal demands that all provisions of the resolution be respected, and his country would back such demands.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), describing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as a “momentous agreement”, commended Iran’s commitment to comply with its provisions as well as Council resolution 2231 (2015).  Noting that his delegation expected to receive more information about alleged violations of Section B, he said the Plan had had a significant impact on the region’s normalization and could also have a positive effect on its economic situation.  Calling for the strict observance by all parties of the Plan’s provisions, he voiced Kazakhstan’s commitment to continue to support that collective action.

IHAB MOUSTAFA AWAD MOUSTAFA (Egypt), emphasizing that the Council should always be “credible and earnest” in addressing issues of non-proliferation and avoid any selectivity or politicization, welcomed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as a step towards stability, peace and security in the Middle East.  Resolution 2231 (2015) went beyond that agreement, outlining clear technical and legal regulations.  Calling for its prompt implementation, he said Iranian nuclear activities must also be subject to international controls in order to ensure compliance; indeed, the resolution’s implementation would help to prevent the launch of a “regional armament race” in the Middle East.

Pointing out that the turbulence in the region was further exacerbated by a number of “subservice acts” on the part of Iran — including fuelling activities in hotspots such as Syria and Yemen, smuggling weapons to armed groups and intervening in the affairs of other States of the region — he cited evidence that the arms shipment seized by France in March 2016 had been of Iranian origin and had Somalia as its destination.  “The Security Council will be held accountable by the international community […] to verify the earnestness and seriousness” of Iran, he stressed, noting that any failings in that respect would threaten the body’s credibility.

VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation), stressing that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action should serve as a basis for cooperation and not a source of confrontation, flagged several concerns about the Secretary-General’s report.  In particular, its calls on Iran to avoid ballistic missile launches had no place in such a report, whose purpose was exclusively to report on implementation.  Describing the conclusion that weapons found on the vessel seized in 2016 were of Iranian origin as “dubious” in nature, he emphasized that such unsubstantiated facts had no place in the report even if they came from Member States.  Raising additional concerns about the allegation that the Iranian vessel stopped in a South African port had been in violation of international obligations, he said leaks to the media about the Secretary-General’s report prior to its publication were unacceptable and urged Member States to adhere to a “due level of integrity”.  Warning against efforts to turn the report into a political document — which would inevitably undermine the Plan of Action — he said that, if respected, that important agreement could serve as a template for addressing other pressing international challenges.

WU HAITAO (China) said that the agreement was a firm step to settle the Iran nuclear issue, but it was important that it was correctly implemented.  Parties must implement in earnest their commitments and create an atmosphere of trust, based on the principles of gradual implementation and balance.  Differences must be resolved through diplomatic means in a context of consensus, and the reports must be presented in a completely impartial way.  He pledged China’s continued participation in mechanisms that supported implementation.  He stated that issues such as ballistic launches should be handled in a sensitive way that did not undermine the agreement.  China would continue its cooperation with the participants, including work with Iran on peaceful uses of nuclear energy and other areas.

LUIS BERMÚDEZ (Uruguay), noting that his country belonged to the world’s first nuclear-free zone, said that it had welcomed the agreement as a key achievement in non-proliferation.  Expressing satisfaction in IAEA’s reports on Iranian cooperation with the group, he called, however, on Iran to act with due caution and moderation in regard to reports of missile testing.  He called on all parties to the agreement to take all measures to comply with all provisions and refrain from any action that might endanger the agreement.  The Council, for its part, must monitor implementation of resolution 2231 (2015) carefully.

Mr. SHUTENKO (Ukraine), noting that the last six months had seen a smooth and effective functioning of the procurement channel mechanism with several proposals to supply Iran with relevant goods and technologies, echoed calls for diligent compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  That agreement aimed to strike a balance between the legitimate right to develop nuclear energy and the need to stem the proliferation of weapons, he said, adding that Iran had been proving its intention to use nuclear technologies exclusively for peaceful purposes.  Acknowledging the existence of different interpretations regarding the applicability of Iran’s ballistic missile tests to resolution 2231 (2015), he underlined the importance of ensuring that any concerns raised in the Secretary-General’s report did not provoke further tensions but instead were resolved through negotiations.  With regard to the January 2017 incident in the Kyiv airport, when an attempt to smuggle components of military goods to Iran had been prevented by Ukrainian law enforcement authorities, his Government remained open and ready to engage with the Secretariat on a relevant investigation.

KORO BESSHO (Japan), pointing out that Iran’s January ballistic missile launches were inconsistent with resolution 2231 (2015) and could be destabilizing for the Middle East, said the Plan of Action nevertheless had the potential to contribute to the region’s peace and security.  Iran could and should play an active role in that regard — particularly in Syria and Yemen — as well as in the international community more generally.  Welcoming the parties’ steady implementation of their nuclear-related commitments, he underscored that Iran’s application of the Additional Protocol and the transparency measures was key not only for the Plan’s full implementation but also for regional confidence-building.  “The uniqueness of the 2231 format is increasingly clear,” he said, noting that it did not include a subsidiary body but required extensive data collection, analysis and reporting by the Secretariat.  In that regard, he encouraged the latter to utilize such tools as the Yemen Sanction Committee and the Somalia-Eritrea Sanctions Committee to obtain relevant information.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) welcomed reports of compliance with the nuclear agreement, while also expressing concern over reports of ballistic tests and arms shipments as well as contravention of the travel ban.  He would carefully study future reports for information on such events.  He called on Iran to avoid activities that endangered the agreement and all parties to act in accordance with, and in support of, the pact, avoiding provocative actions.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) welcomed the positive progress on implementation of the nuclear agreement as found in the Secretary-General’s report.  She also welcomed activities that enhanced awareness of the agreement for the general United Nations membership.  Acknowledging challenges to the implementation to resolution 2231 (2015), she called for its full implementation.  In that context, she expressed concern over reports of missile launches and arms shipments, calling on Iran to avoid such activities and on all parties to act in a way that ensured continued implementation.

GORGUI CISS (Senegal), praising the signing and implementation of the agreement, noted the progress reported by the Secretary-General as well as such challenges to the agreement as the launch of ballistic missiles.  He called on all sides to deal with those challenges in a way that facilitated further implementation of the agreement.  He welcomed the activities of Council mechanisms that supported the pact, including outreach activities that enlisted the support of the wider United Nations membership.

PETER WILSON (United Kingdom), recalling that IAEA had confirmed Iran’s full compliance with its nuclear obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, said the deal’s continued success hinged on the commitment of all parties to uphold their responsibilities across a range of issues.  Iran’s launch of a medium range ballistic missile in January had been inconsistent with its obligations under the Plan, he said, calling on it to refrain from such activities in the future.  Evidence of attempts by Iran to transfer conventional weapons, as well as infringements on the travel ban, were also worrying.  Agreeing that all stakeholders should work to combat ISIL [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Da’esh] and defeat terrorism, he nevertheless stressed that “we cannot turn a blind eye” to Iran’s efforts to support armed groups and proxy forces throughout the region.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy) said the international community must undertake every effort to ensure the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and resolution 2231 (2015), both of which would benefit regional security.  Describing the Plan as an example of the benefits of diplomacy leading to a reduction of tensions between States, he vowed to continue to support IAEA in its relevant work and encouraged all stakeholders to resolve any outstanding issues through negotiations.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), Council President for June, spoke in his national capacity, agreeing that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action represented a milestone in diplomacy.  Pointing out that IAEA had verified Iran’s withdrawal of all its centrifuges and enrichment mechanisms within the agreed timeline — which demonstrated its commitment to the Plan — he expressed concern that no reference had been made in the Secretary-General’s report to “Annex A”.  Indeed, both annexes were critical to the comprehensive implementation of resolution 2231 (2015).  Reaffirming Bolivia’s commitment to the principles of independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, he stressed that politicization and provocative rhetoric ran counter to the Plan of Action.

HARALD BRAUN (Germany), stressing that the Plan as endorsed by resolution 2231 (2015) represented an “outstanding success of diplomacy in an extremely volatile region”, added that “the deal, as such, is working”.  Indeed, it had clearly promoted security and stability in the region, and all parties were adhering to it.  Urging them to continue to do so, he added that Iran was complying with all its commitments.  Going forward, IAEA’s verification procedures continued to reassure the world that Iran’s nuclear activities were for exclusively peaceful purposes.  Underscoring Germany’s commitment to establishing economic ties with Iran to the benefit of all parties concerned, he also expressed concern that while that country’s January ballistic missile launch did not violate the Plan of Action it had nevertheless exacerbated tensions and mistrust.

For information media. Not an official record.