Maintain Strong Support for ‘Vital’ Accord on Iran Nuclear Programme, United Nations Political Affairs Chief Urges Security Council

SC/13129
19 December 2017
8143rd Meeting (PM)

Maintain Strong Support for ‘Vital’ Accord on Iran Nuclear Programme, United Nations Political Affairs Chief Urges Security Council

The head of United Nations political affairs urged the Security Council today to maintain strong support for the agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme, asking its signatories to work out their respective concerns, as it remained vital for international stability.

“The agreement is in the interest of the global non‑proliferation regime and of regional and global security”, Jeffrey Feltman, Under‑Secretary‑General for Political Affairs, said in a briefing on the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015), which endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme.  Also briefing this afternoon were Sebastiano Cardi of Italy, the Council facilitator for Committee established pursuant to that resolution, and Joanne Adamson of the European Union delegation, who spoke on the work of the agreement’s Joint Commission.

Mr. Feltman introduced the Secretary‑General’s latest report on the topic (document S/2017/1030), which affirmed “diplomatic achievement, compliance and robust verification” under the plan, but said that the recent decision of the President of the United States not to certify the agreement had “regrettably created considerable uncertainty regarding the future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action”.

As a national executive action, the United States move did not, at present, affect the validity of the agreement, however, according to the report.  “I am reassured that the United States has expressed its commitment to stay in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for now,” the Secretary‑General stated in the report.

On Iran’s compliance, Mr. Feltman noted that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had reported nine times that Iran was continuing to adhere to its nuclear‑related commitments.  In addition, there were again no reports of supply, sale or transfer to Iran of nuclear‑related items undertaken contrary to the resolution’s provisions.

However, he went on to say signatories and other Member States had provided information on the launch by Iran of several ballistic missiles as well as the Simorgh space launch vehicle in July 2017.  In addition, the Secretariat was still analysing material from ballistic missiles launched at Saudi Arabia, reportedly from Yemen, for determination of Iranian involvement.

The Secretariat had also found evidence that certain weapons brought to its attention, including a shipment of assault rifles and grenade launchers, had shown signs of Iranian origin.  In addition, the report requested the Security Council to call upon the Governments of relevant Member States to take the necessary steps to ensure implementation of the travel ban and other provisions of the annex.

Mr. Cardi, reporting on the activities of the Sanctions Committee, described an 8 September meeting in which the launch of the Simorgh space vehicle was discussed, with some Council members calling it inconsistent with resolution 2231 (2015), while others contended that it could not be modified to deliver nuclear weapons.  He also reported on communications from three Member States alleging weapons transfers from Iran, which resulted in communications with that country.

Ms. Adamson, reporting on civil nuclear cooperation, said that Iran had made steps towards its accession to the international nuclear regulatory framework and must be further encouraged.  The procurement working group was fully operational and the number of States interested in transfers to Iran had increased, she added, but stressed that the proper functioning of the procurement channel needed to be ensured.  Commenting that the use of ballistic missiles and developments in the region had cast a shadow on the agreement, she called upon all parties to remain committed to the Joint Plan of Action in good faith and build on that achievement of multilateral diplomacy.

Following those briefings, most Member States urged all signatories to continue their commitment to the Joint Plan of Action, calling it an important instrument for nuclear non‑proliferation, and welcoming IAEA findings.  Some expressed concern over possible violations of annex B of resolution 2231 (2015), worrying that any use of ballistic missiles could inflame tensions in the region and calling on Iran to act with caution in that regard.

While agreeing that Iran’s ballistic launches were of growing concern, the representative of France, along with others, urged all parties to the agreement to abide by it, stressing that respecting commitments was a cardinal element of international relations.  He stressed that the decision by the United States had created an alarming uncertainty, as mentioned in the Secretary‑General’s report.

The representative of the United States said the Council must follow through on Iranian violations listed in that report, noting that just today there had been reports of Houthis in Yemen firing another missile into Saudi Arabia.  That attack was a “red siren” for the Council.  She maintained that the Secretary‑General’s fourth report was the most damning yet, as it made the case that Iran was transferring weapons.  Iran’s destabilizing behaviour would only grow unless the cost of defying the international community was raised, she argued.

The representative of the Russian Federation, on the other hand, maintained that the Secretary‑General’s report was clear in relaying Iran’s compliance with the Joint Plan of Action.  He expressed regret that there had been an attempt to undermine that breakthrough.  Emphasizing that the Secretariat should not be conducting investigations outside its area of expertise, he said that overall, the international community needed to abandon the language of threats and sanctions and instead focus on dialogue and fostering mutual trust.

Also delivering statements were representatives of Egypt, Uruguay, Sweden, Ethiopia, China, Bolivia, Senegal, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Italy, Japan and Germany.

The meeting began at 3:08 p.m. and ended at 5:03 p.m.

Briefings

JEFFREY FELTMAN, Under‑Secretary‑General for Political Affairs, said that almost two years after “implementation day”, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme was at a critical crossroad.  The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had reported nine times that Iran was continuing to adhere to its nuclear‑related commitments.

Yet, on 13 October, the United States President had decided not to certify the agreement, he said.  The Security Council’s support for the agreement continued to be vital to ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme, as well as regional and international stability.  “The agreement is in the interest of the global non‑proliferation regime,” he said.  For that reason, he added, the Secretary‑General encouraged the United States to maintain its commitment to the deal and similarly urged Iran to carefully consider concerns raised by other agreement partners.  “The Secretary‑General encourages the international community to continue to support the full implementation of this historic agreement,” he added.

Turning to the main findings of the Secretary‑General’s fourth report, he said there were again no instances of supply, sale or transfer to Iran of nuclear‑related items undertaken contrary to the provisions of the relevant resolution.  Meanwhile, Member States were making greater use of the procurement channel.  Eight additional nuclear‑related proposals were submitted for approval, bringing to 24 the total number of proposals being processed along the agreed timeline.

Regarding the implementation of ballistic missile‑related provisions, he said the report reflected official information provided by Member States on the launch by Iran of several such missiles, as well as the Simorgh space launch vehicle in July 2017.  In October and November, the Secretariat had been requested, in addition, to travel twice to Saudi Arabia to examine debris of missiles to determine their origin.  Although preliminary observations indicated Scud missile features, the Secretariat was still analysing the information.  The Council must consider the issue holistically on the basis of all information available and in conjunction with the Panel of Experts on Yemen.

In terms of arms‑related transfers, he said that after examining material seized by the United States in March 2016, the Secretariat was confident nearly 900 assault rifles were identical to others previously determined as being of Iranian origin and half of the 200 rocket‑propelled grenade launchers were similar to Iranian weapons.  The remaining weapons were still being analysed.

Information had also been received on an unmanned surface vessel laden with explosives allegedly used against the Saudi‑led coalition, and the Secretariat had the opportunity to examine parts of its guidance and detonation systems, parts of which resembled Iran‑produced items.  In addition, the Secretariat had observed that an unmanned aerial vehicle reportedly recovered in Yemen had resembled an Iranian‑made Ababil‑II.

The report, he said, also considered the participation of the Defence Industries Organization in a foreign exhibition.  According to an investigation by the Russian Federation, no action inconsistent with resolution 2231 (2015) had been found.  On additional travels by Major General Qasem Soleimani, the report stated that the Council should call upon the Government of relevant Member States to take the necessary steps to ensure implementation of the travel ban and other provisions of annex B of that resolution.

JOANNE ADAMSON, European Union delegation, briefed the Council on the work of the agreement’s Joint Commission, saying that United States President Donald Trump’s decision not to certify Iranian compliance had created uncertainty regarding that country’s continued commitment to the Joint Plan of Action.  Expecting its full and effective implementation by all sides, she said the Joint Plan of Action was a strategic priority for global security and an example of how to peacefully resolve non‑proliferation issues.  With overwhelming support from partners worldwide, it was working as intended, as nine IAEA reports had confirmed Iran’s compliance.  Yet, serious issues outside the deal had cast a shadow, including the deteriorating situation in the region and the use of ballistic missiles.  While the situation in the region must be urgently addressed, dismantling a nuclear agreement that was working would not put the international community in a better position to discuss the rest.

Turning to annex III of the agreement, covering civil nuclear cooperation, she said that provision was key in the deal’s overall balance and essential to the objective of ensuring the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.  While implementing projects on the ground and conducting research, Iran had made steps towards its accession to the international nuclear regulatory framework and must be further encouraged.  Turning to the reporting related to annex B of Council resolution 2231 (2015), she said that the procurement working group was fully operational.  Following outreach efforts, the number of States interested in transfers to Iran had increased.  Focusing on transparency, the working group had also continued to work intensively to further develop its operational modalities.  With the aim of supporting the transfer of sensitive goods to Iran while preventing their misuse, the proper functioning of the procurement channel needed to be ensured and proposals needed to be judged on their technical merits.  She concluded by calling upon all parties to remain committed to the Joint Plan of Action in good faith and build on that achievement of multilateral diplomacy.

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy), facilitator of the Committee established pursuant to resolution 2231 (2015), provided an update of recent activities.  An open, technical briefing had informed Member States on the implementation progress and an 8 September Security Council meeting had discussed the 17 July Simorgh space launch vehicle, with some members considering the launch to be inconsistent with resolution 2231 (2015) and others saying the vessel could not be modified to deliver nuclear weapons.

During the reporting period, three Member States had sent communications alleging transfer and activities by Iran, he said, noting that those notes and all replies from Iran were listed in his submitted report.  Four Member States from three regional groups had submitted a total of 24 proposals to participate in or permit the activities referred to in paragraph 2 of annex B of resolution 2231 (2015).  On average, proposals had been processed in fewer than 49 days.

On 1 August, the Council had updated the lists of items, materials, equipment, goods and technology whose supply, sale or transfer to Iran required its approval in advance, on a case‑by‑case basis, he said.  Transparency, practical guidance and outreach remained a priority.  The open briefing on 14 July for Member States on implementing resolution 2231 (2015) was one of the many efforts to raise awareness, with a focus on the procurement channel.

Statements

NIKKI R. HALEY (United States), citing reports of the Houthis in Yemen firing another missile into Saudi Arabia today, said that although the projectile had been intercepted, the attack was a “red siren” for the Council.  While there was as yet no insight into the attack, it bore the hallmarks of previous attacks with Iranian provided weapons.  The Secretary‑General’s fourth report was the most damning yet, as it made the case that Iran was transferring weapons.  To build on the report’s conclusions, the United States had taken the step of revealing, in a public setting, military equipment recovered from military attacks on partners in the region.  Iran’s destabilizing behaviour would only grow unless the cost of defying the international community was raised.  Based on the report, there was an opportunity to confront the Iranian regime for its actions.  In addition, the Council must follow through on the violations listed in that report.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) stressed that all Member States, particularly countries in the Middle East, had a stake in ensuring the proper implementation of resolution 2231 (2015).  Iran’s policies must be coherent and consistent with the letter and spirit of the resolution in all the other areas covered therein, including in annex B.  “We call on Iran to work towards confidence‑building and to immediately cease any activities that can destabilize and fuel sectarian divides in a number of Arab States,” he said.  The Secretary‑General’s report regarding violations by Iran presented the most compelling evidence of a need for the Council to intensify its efforts to follow up on that information and to fulfil its responsibilities in addressing those violations without delay.  He also expressed concern about the information and evidence connected with Iran’s supply of weapons and missiles to militias.  He called for the completion of Secretariat investigations to verify whether the missiles that had targeted Saudi Arabia were of Iranian origin.

LUIS HOMERO BERMÚDEZ ÁLVAREZ (Uruguay) stressed his country’s support for non‑proliferation and underscored that it had never possessed nuclear weapons.  As a party to the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Uruguay welcomed the signature of the Joint Plan of Action, which was a milestone for the non‑proliferation regime and a significant contribution to international peace and stability.  The deal also conveyed that, with political determination, it was possible to achieve positive results.  Welcoming progress made on the agreement, as well as the way in which IAEA had carried out its responsibilities in Iran, he said it was essential that all parties complied with all provisions.  Noting possible annex B violations, he expressed concern that any use of ballistic missiles could inflame tensions in the region, calling on Iran to be prudent in that regard, and urged all parties to adopt measures stipulated in resolution 2231 (2015) to avoid jeopardizing the historic agreement.  He also called on States to act with caution and desist from any action that violated the deal, while recalling that the Secretary‑General’s report explicitly stated that acts at the domestic level could not invalidate the Joint Plan of Action.  In that regard, he expressed regret at any actions that were sowing uncertainty, and called on the Council to be proactive in ensuring full compliance with the Joint Plan of Action and with resolution 2231 (2015).

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said the Security Council had worked with the international community to promote peace and security, with a non‑proliferation architecture based on solid international instruments, of which the Non‑Proliferation Treaty was a cornerstone.  The Joint Plan of Action was a robust reaction to a proliferation crisis and guaranteed that the Iranian nuclear programme would not be diverted to military ends.  However, the decision of the United States not to certify had not changed the current situation.  The Joint Plan of Action must be implemented, he said, adding that the decision by the United States had created an alarming uncertainty, as mentioned in the Secretary‑General’s report.  All parties to the agreement must abide by it, as respecting commitments was a cardinal element of international relations.  However, Iran’s activities regarding its ballistic programme were a cause of growing concern, and recent missile testing and space launch were not in line with resolution 2231 (2015).

VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation) said one of the central goals of the international community was upholding the Joint Plan of Action, a main achievement in recent years in the area of non‑proliferation and the outcome of collective work.  In that context, the Secretary‑General’s report was clear in relaying Iran’s compliance with the agreement.  He expressed regret that there had been an attempt to undermine that breakthrough and hoped the agreement would ultimately prevail and display its unique potential.  Further, he called for the agreement to be implemented in good faith and for all participants to abide by its provisions, including one that stipulated that Iran receive specific benefits as a result of abiding by its commitments.  He drew attention to the Secretariat’s practice of conducting investigations outside its area of expertise.  Those activities were not legitimate and should not be included in such a report, he said, adding that findings should also not include any information that had been obtained by open sources or that had not been verified.  Overall, the past two years had shown the Joint Plan of Action was an effective agreement and there was no justification for its revision.  It was an outstanding accomplishment in diplomacy that could be held up as a model when dealing with other acute regional crises.  With that in mind, the international community needed to abandon the language of threats and sanctions and instead focus on dialogue and fostering mutual trust.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) welcomed Iran’s continued compliance with its nuclear‑related obligations, as verified by IAEA reports, and noted that it was promising that the procurement channel process was working according to plan.  More efforts must be made to engage various actors, including the private sector, to increase the economic benefits of the agreement, including for the Iranian people.  However, Sweden was still concerned about reported Iranian violations of the arms embargo and the travel ban.  He also expressed concern about previously reported ballistic missile launches, which were inconsistent with resolution 2231 (2015).  In terms of Iran’s possible transfers of missiles or related technology, he noted that any new information regarding such cases should be verified by the Secretariat, which should promptly report findings to the Council.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said there were challenges in the broader implementation of the Joint Plan of Action, as noted in the Secretary-General’s report.  With regard to the ballistic missile case involving Iran, maintaining an effective mutual understanding was critical.  On reports of arms seizures by the United States in the Gulf of Oman, he said that such activity could impact the overall implementation of the Joint Plan of Action.  He also noted that Iran should refrain from acts that undermined the agreement, and that all partners should continue to implement their commitments in all their aspects.

WU HAITAO (China) said the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action had progressed in a positive manner over the past two years.  The IAEA had confirmed nine times Iran’s compliance, he said, underscoring that the coordination between the Council and the procurement channel was working accordingly.  While the agreement would inevitably face challenges, all parties should hold steady and abide by all commitments.  At the same time, the latest report should reflect the efforts of all parties in an impartial manner.  Concerning space and missile launches, he urged all parties to take a prudent approach to thwart any negative effect on the agreement.  Overall, China advocated for the settlement of issues by diplomatic means and actively supported the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action and resolution 2231 (2015).

PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia), welcoming progress spelled out in the current report, said Iran had been meeting its commitments and provisionally applying the additional protocol.  Given that the Joint Plan of Action had been a success story for multilateral diplomacy, it must be implemented in a constructive spirit, he said, calling on the parties to refrain from applying sanctions unilaterally outside the scope of the deal.  All parties must comply with the letter of the agreement in order to build trust; a failure to do so would lead to difficulties in reaching similar agreements.  Also requesting that future reports must refer to annex A, since both annexes A and B were part of the same whole, he reaffirmed his delegation’s commitment to preventive diplomacy and to respect the territorial integrity of States.

FODÉ SECK (Senegal), noting that the Joint Plan of Action was the result of years of diplomatic efforts, said the Secretary-General’s report clearly confirmed Iran’s compliance.  Welcoming efforts made by the Secretariat regarding the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015), he noted some remaining challenges.  It was vital to ensure that the private sector understood that resolution well, he said, stressing “we need to bridge the gap between the business sector and Security Council”.  Expressing concern about the possible transfer by Iran of weapons to Yemen, he looked forward to the outcome of the ongoing investigation.  Overall, the situation was positive, he said, encouraging the facilitator and all participants “to continue down this road”.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said his country attached great importance to the historic agreement, a major achievement in nuclear non-proliferation.  The majority of the international community had demanded the preservation of that hard-won achievement, which had put Iran on a new path.  Expressing great concern regarding violations of provisions concerning ballistic missiles and the transfer of missile technologies to Yemen, he called for attention and coordination on the issue between concerned countries.  At the same time, Member States should be careful not to discredit other achievements gained within an agreement that had helped to normalize the situation in the region and strengthened an atmosphere of trust.  For its part, Kazakhstan would continue to support the Joint Plan of Action and all its provisions.

VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine), noting that the Joint Plan of Action fully respected the balance between the legitimate right of a State to develop nuclear energy and the need to stem proliferation of related weapons, welcomed Iran’s peaceful nuclear programme.  He was concerned, however, about the incidents of non-compliance with restrictions on arms-related transfers and asset freeze and travel ban provisions.  A joint meeting of the Council and its Committee established pursuant to resolution 2140 (2014) would be a useful and timely initiative to shed light on the alleged cases of arms and missiles transfers from Iran to conflict zones.  He emphasized that the Joint Plan of Action was a major achievement in nuclear non‑proliferation and that diplomacy was a crucial contribution to regional and global security and stability.  All parties concerned should interact constructively to resolve all outstanding issues for the sake of the overarching nuclear agreement.

MATTHEW JOHN RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said he was pleased that the nuclear component of the deal was working, and welcomed sanctions relief for the people of Iran.  Despite progress, elements of the report relating to annex B were a cause for concern.  Specifically, the transfer of ballistic missile technology to Houthis in Yemen risked escalating tensions and threatened regional stability.  In that context, he said a thorough investigation was needed.  He also condemned the mounting evidence of Iran’s violations on arms‑related provisions, while expressing concern about the country’s ballistic missile activities and travel ban violations.  Such activities were undermining Iran’s integration with the international community.  While the United Kingdom was committed to the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015), it could not allow Security Council resolutions to be ignored and for the region to be further destabilized.  All stakeholders were responsible for ensuring the success of the Joint Plan of Action and Iran was no exception.

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) said it was crucial for the Council to display unity on the important issue of non‑proliferation, as the international community worked towards related objectives.  All participants, including the Iranian people, must continue to benefit from the Joint Plan of Action, and all participants must remain steadfast in its implementation.  Taking note of the preliminary findings contained in the report regarding ballistic missile issues, he called on all parties to work through differences in a spirit of compromise and good faith.  All stakeholders must resolve issue of concern by exploiting available avenues within the agreement, with the Council playing a key role, he said, reiterating his delegation’s full trust in IAEA activities.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said his country was committed to working closely with IAEA, the Council, and the Joint Plan of Action signatories to implement resolution 2231 (2015).  He expressed concern about some alleged violations of the arms embargo and travel ban provisions.  As the Secretariat investigated ballistic missile‑related transfers or activities, Japan was awaiting those results.  He called on all Member States, including Iran, to fully implement the resolution, and underscored the importance of close coordination with other Council sanctions committees related to Yemen, Somalia and Eritrea.  He also expressed full support to convening a joint meeting of the sanction committees regarding resolutions 2140 (2014) and 2231 (2015) so that Council members could receive respective findings simultaneously.

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany), describing the Plan of Action as an outstanding success of diplomacy, expressed his delegation’s determination to preserve it, especially in light of today’s acute nuclear threats.  Stressing that all participants must remain in full compliance with their obligations, he underscored the importance of fully and effectively implementing resolution 2231 (2015), including its provisions relating to arms transfers and ballistic missile activity.  The Secretary‑General’s findings gave rise to serious concerns, as they strongly indicated possible Iranian involvement in missile strikes by the Houthis in Yemen against civilian targets and included information revealing the possible Iranian origins of seized arms.  Welcoming ongoing investigations into those matters, he encouraged the Secretariat to report back to the Council in due course.  Voicing concern about Iran’s ballistic missile programme, he called on that country to cease such actions and refrain from activities that might escalate tensions, exacerbate conflicts and deepen mistrust.

For information media. Not an official record.