Briefing Security Council on Iran’s Nuclear Programme, Under-Secretary-General Reports Progress in Implementation of Comprehensive Action Plan

SC/12450
18 July 2016
7739th Meeting (AM)

Briefing Security Council on Iran’s Nuclear Programme, Under-Secretary-General Reports Progress in Implementation of Comprehensive Action Plan

One year after the adoption of an action plan on Iran’s nuclear programme, the United Nations senior political official today noted progress in its implementation, while stressing that all participants must stay the course and work through current challenges in a spirit of cooperation and compromise.

Fully implemented, the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan would reinforce global non-proliferation norms and assure the international community of the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear activities, Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told the Security Council during a briefing on implementation of Council resolution 2231 (2015), which endorsed the Plan and heralded a new chapter for Iran’s relationship with the Security Council.

Mr. Feltman said that in his report on the matter — which focused on restrictions related to Iran’s ballistic missile programme and conventional arms transfer — the Secretary-General noted that since 16 January, he had not received reports of, nor was he aware of, any open source information regarding such transfers.  However, the report included details of Iran’s launching of ballistic missiles during military exercises in early March, drawn from Iranian media sources as well as information from France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, and Iran’s view of the issue.  The Secretary-General called on Iran to avoid such launches, which had the potential to increase regional tensions.

Furthermore, the report noted the seizure of a weapons shipment by the United States Navy in the Gulf of Oman in March 2016, the participation of Iranian entities in the Fifth Iraq Defence Exhibition, and possible foreign travel by Major General Qasem Soleimani, in apparent violation of Annex B.  The Secretary-General’s next report to the Council would be submitted in January, he said, telling the 15-member body that “hope for a more secure world, closer partnership to resolve common challenges, and the deliverance of tangible benefits for the people of Iran rest in your hands.”

Román Oyarzun Marchesi (Spain), Facilitator for Council-related tasks in the 2231 resolution, said that the 15-member body had received information of alleged actions on 7 and 9 March about Iranian ballistic missile launches that were inconsistent with the text.  The Council concluded that all Member States, including Iran, must act in line with all provisions of the text and that as a body the Council must act with unity.  The Council was also informed of two alleged cases of arms seizure, including a 7 June report about arms originating in Iran that were likely bound for Yemen and a 5 July report of a shipment from Iran likely en route to Yemen and Somalia.  He stressed that under paragraph 6 (b) of Annex B of the text, engaging in activities related to such arms transfers without prior Council authorization violated the text.

João Pedro Vale De Almeida, Head of the European Union Delegation, which served as Coordinator of the Joint Commission responsible of overseeing the agreement’s implementation, noted the deal was on track and demonstrated that with political will, perseverance and multilateral diplomacy, solutions could be found to the most difficult problems.  In that regard, the Joint Commission would meet with the E3/EU+3 and Iran in Vienna on 19 July.

Under paragraph 6.10 of the Plan’s Annex IV, the Commission was to report to the Council every six months on the status of the Procurement Working Group’s decision and on any implementation issues, he said.  Since the Plan was implemented in January, the Group’s participants had worked to define modalities for operation and had made great efforts to be as transparent as possible without compromising confidentiality by reaching out to third States and promoting a better understanding of the Group’s aims and review process.

After those briefings, Council members welcomed progress made in implementing the agreement and said it was a significant step forward for peace and security in the region and beyond.

The representative of the United States said that despite significant verifiable progress, Iran and other Member States had undertaken actions inconsistent with resolution 2231 (2015), including ballistic missile launches — which Iran did not hide — and arms transfers to other parts of the region.   The United Kingdom’s representative said the ballistic missiles tested by Iran were inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons and echoed the Secretary-General’s concern that such acts could potentially fuel regional tensions.

France’s representative pointed to reports of foreign travel by General Qasem Soleimani, who remained subject to a travel ban.  “It is important for regional stability for Iran to abstain from any destabilizing and dangerous activity,” he said, calling on all sides to redouble implementation efforts.

But the Russian Federation’s representative said any conclusions made on missile launches had been hasty and done without verified information, stressing it was unacceptable to include unchecked data from the media in the report and that the Secretariat should work on the basis of officially provided information only.  Moreover, the report was politically biased and included information that was irrelevant to the Secretary-General’s mandate, as well as factual errors.

Some speakers discussed ways in which their Governments were strengthening bilateral relationships with Iran made possible by the lifting of sanctions.  New Zealand’s representative said that his Government was engaging with that country’s banking sector and others to strengthen commercial ties, and there had been reciprocal visits by the Foreign Ministers of New Zealand and Iran.  However, it had taken longer than expected for the private sector to reengage with Iran, he said, noting that the complex terms of the Plan had been difficult to navigate.  He encouraged parties to continue to share information and clarify expectations with the private sector.

Germany’s representative said it was important that Iran took further steps to improve economic and fiscal policy, create a reliable business environment and fully implement the rule of law.  His country would provide further support if needed and it was glad to be in a position again to use export credits to facilitate trade with Iran.

Other speakers were encouraged by the Facilitator’s efforts at transparency, outreach and practical guidance to ensure that the provisions of resolution 2231 (2015) were well understood.  Senegal’s representative said that that in turn made implementation easier to monitor.  The interface between the Council and the Joint Commission had worked well, with many visits to a dedicated website that gave Member States information regarding the Council decision.  He encouraged the Facilitator and other stakeholders to continue in the right direction.  Going forward, Malaysia’s representative urged balance, prudence and collective engagement in the Council on facilitating implementation of the resolution.

Also speaking today were the representatives of China, Egypt, Ukraine, Angola, Uruguay, Venezuela and Japan.

The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 11:56 a.m.

Briefings

JEFFREY FELTMAN, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said resolution 2231 (2015), which endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, heralded a new chapter for Iran’s relationship with the Security Council.  Fully implemented, the Plan would reinforce global non-proliferation norms and assure the international community of the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.  Consideration of the Secretary-General’s report (document S/2016/589) was taking place against the backdrop of progress in the implementation of the Plan of Action and the commitment of all its participants to work through implementation challenges.  In his report, the Secretary-General called on participants to stay the course, fully implement all aspects of the Plan and work through challenges in a spirit of cooperation and compromise, good faith and reciprocity.

He said the report focused strictly on the restrictive measures in Annex B to resolution 2231 (2015), which included restrictions on nuclear-related transfers and activities, ballistic missile-related transfers and activities, arms related transfers, and an assets freeze and travel ban.  It stated that, since 16 January 2016, the Secretary-General had received no report, nor was he aware of any open source information, regarding the supply, sale, transfer or export to Iran of nuclear-related materials.  Nor had the Secretariat received information regarding the supply, sale, transfer or export to Iran of ballistic missile-related items.  However, the report included details of Iran’s launching of a series of ballistic missiles during military exercises in early March 2016, drawn from Iranian media sources as well as information from France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.  It also included Iran’s views of the issue, which the Council discussed on 14 March and 1 April.  The Secretary-General called on Iran to avoid such launches, which had the potential to increase regional tension.

Turning to arms transfers, he said the report noted the seizure of a weapons shipment by the United States Navy in the Gulf of Oman in March 2016.  The Secretariat was still reviewing information provided by the United States and Iran regarding the shipment.  The report also discussed the participation of Iranian entities in the Fifth Iraq Defence Exhibition, held in Baghdad in March.  “It is our understanding that the transfer of arms from Iran to Iraq should have required prior approval by the Security Council,” pursuant to Annex B, he said.  In Iran’s opinion, that was not necessary because it retained ownership of the items exhibited.  It also appeared that the Defense Industries Organization, which was on the 2231 list, might have participated in the Exhibition, which had implications for implementation of the assets freeze.  Finally, the report drew attention to possible foreign travel by Major General Qasem Soleimani, again contrary to Annex B.  The Secretary-General’s next report to the Council would be submitted in January 2017, he said, telling the 15-member body that “hope for a more secure world, closer partnership to resolve common challenges, and the deliverance of tangible benefits for the people of Iran rest in your hands.”

JOÃO PEDRO VALE DE ALMEIDA, Head of the European Union Delegation, speaking on behalf of the designate representative of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said that during the first year of implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, important steps had been taken by all parties and the Plan was on track.  The deal clearly demonstrated that with political will, perseverance and multilateral diplomacy, workable solutions could be found to the most difficult problems.  In that regard, the Joint Commission would meet with the E3/EU+3 and Iran in Vienna on 19 July.

Under paragraph 6.10 of the Action Plan’s Annex IV, the Joint Commission was to report to the Council every six months on the status of the Procurement Working Group’s decision and on any implementation issues, he said.  In that context, on 8 July, the Group’s Coordinator submitted a report to the Facilitator, on behalf of the Joint Commission.  The first of its kind, the report was factual and aimed to give the Facilitator and Council members an overview of the Group’s work from 16 January, the day the Action Plan was implemented, until 6 July.  During that period, the Group’s participants had worked intensively to establish the Group and define its modalities for operation.  Participants had held seven meetings; in one meeting the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) participated as an observer.

The Group had made great efforts to be as transparent as possible without compromising confidentiality, by reaching out to third States and promoting a better understanding of its aims, objectives and review process, he said.  The Group had collectively engaged with third States and briefed representatives of the Council and Member States during an open briefing organized by the Facilitator for implementation of resolution 2231 (2015).  Participants had also held, separately, bilateral discussions with several interested third States.  Taking note of points raised by States during those meetings, the Joint Commission had endorsed several documents related to the Group.

ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain), Facilitator of the implementation of Security Council resolution 2231 (2015), discussed the setting up of the 2231 format and the procurement channel, monitoring of the resolution, and transparency, outreach and guidance.  Among the most challenging aspects of the set up was establishing the format of a communications channel among Council members and with the Joint Commission, and what issues were to be discussed regularly.  In that regard, the Secretariat had been crucial, as it had provided a template for each communication.  So far, only one proposal had been received by a Member State, which it subsequently withdrew, to participate in permit activities set forth in paragraph 2 of Annex B of resolution 2231 (2015).  During the reporting period, he did not receive any notification on certain activities described in paragraph 2 of Annex B, nor any requests for travel ban or assets freeze exemptions.  The system, however, was in place and he was sure it would provide legal certainty.

During the reporting period, the Council received information of alleged actions inconsistent with the resolution, he said, including information on 7 and 9 March about ballistic missile launches by Iran.  The Council met in 2231 format to further consider those launches.  It concluded that all Member States, including Iran, must act in accordance with all the provisions of resolution 2231 (2015), and that it was essential that the Council act with unity so as to assist in the effective implementation of the text and to create certainty.  The Council was also informed of two alleged cases of arms seizure.  On 7 June, a Member State submitted a report informing that its naval forces encountered and boarded a ship transiting international waters in the vicinity of the Gulf of Oman, and that the arms originated in Iran and were likely bound for Yemen.

The Facilitator said that that with regard to that case, he had sent a letter to the Permanent Representative of Iran inviting his Government to comment on it.  As of the report’s closing date, there had been no response.  However, the Mission of Iran had informed him that they rejected such an allegation and that the country had never engaged in such delivery.  On 5 July, another Member State submitted to the Council a report informing that its naval forces had encountered and boarded a ship in the northern Indian Ocean containing an important arms cache, the weapons had originated in Iran and were likely bound for Yemen and Somalia.  He stressed that under paragraph 6 (b) of Annex B of resolution 2231 (2015), engaging in activities related to such arms transfers without prior Council authorization violated the text.  Finally, he noted, on transparency and guidance, that he convened an open briefing on resolution 2231 (2015), during which he provided an overview of its main provisions and of its implementation by the Council.

SAMANTHA POWER (United States) said that, since the agreement with Iran was concluded a year ago, commitments had been kept and the deal had held.  That was a significant achievement, she said, noting such developments as the dismantling of centrifuges and the removal of enriched uranium.  Iran’s pathway to nuclear weapons had been closed and the “breakout time” extended to one year.  The United States welcomed Iran’s swift implementation of the deal, which had brought tangible change.  The world was safer because of the agreement.  The United States, its P5+1 partners and others had fully and unequivocally fulfilled their commitments, she said, adding that the economic burden on the Iranian people had been eased.

Despite significant verifiable progress, Iran and other Member States had undertaken actions inconsistent with resolution 2231 (2015), she said.  A number of those activities were documented in the Secretary-General’s report, including ballistic missile launches — which Iran did not hide — and arms transfers to other parts of the region.  Implementation was everything, and so when the resolution was violated, such actions must be documented and condemned.  She said the Security Council did not mandate the Secretary-General to report on issues unrelated to Annex B, saying that the Joint Commission was designed to deal with such implementation issues.  The deal had not resolved all her country’s differences with Iran, she said, expressing concern over human rights abuses and destabilizing activities including threats against Israel.  But it was a reminder of what could be done when States came together to address shared threats.  Building on progress made was not guaranteed, she said, emphasizing that the Council, Secretariat and individual Member States must do their part to implement the Plan of Action.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said the Vienna agreement and resolution 2231 (2015) represented an historic moment for international peace and security.  One year on, the IAEA had pursued its verification and monitoring activities without obstacles.  France was fully committed to implementation of the agreement in all its dimensions, he said, noting its bilateral discussions with Iran — which under the Non-Proliferation Treaty had the right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful ends — on nuclear fusion.  The lifting of sanctions had begun to bear fruit, as seen by the resumption of Iranian oil exports.  France understood Iran’s concern on the slowness of the sanctions lifting on the economy, he said, emphasizing that other factors came into play and it behoved Iran to create a climate of trust for business.  Thanking the Secretary-General for his complete, factual and balanced report, he expressed concern over several destabilizing actions by Iran, including the testing of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons and the seizure of Iranian weapons at sea.  France was also concerned by information about foreign travel by General Qasem Soleimani, who was still subject to a travel ban.  “It is important for regional stability for Iran to abstain from any destabilizing and dangerous activity,” he said, calling on all sides to redouble implementation efforts.  France would ensure that the Council remained vigilant.

VITALY I. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said the text was a triumph for multilateralism but its success required the conscientious fulfilment of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  Implementation of the Plan was going well, and all those involved in the process must remain focused.  The Secretary-General’s report was politically biased and included several pieces of information that were irrelevant.  The Iran nuclear agreement warned against attempts to create any group of experts like the Panel of Experts under the 1737 Committee, but the document showed a relapse into such activities, which could undermine the agreements reached.  During the preliminary discussions, the Russian Federation had offered corrections to the Secretary-General’s report but such revisions were not made.  As a result, the document contained simple factual errors.  It stated that the Action Plan was signed, when it had not been.  Further, it was unacceptable to include unchecked data from the media in the report; the Secretariat should work on the basis of officially provided information only.

Any conclusions made on missile launches had been hasty and done without verified information, he continued, stressing that all data must be checked in the next report by the Secretary-General on the matter.  Individual countries were making statements and referring to the report as documented evidence.  But some of the document’s provisions had no relation to the Secretary-General’s mandate.  He pointed to proposals of the Russian Federation that fully fell within the scope of the report that had not been considered.  Meanwhile, the role of the European Union and the United States was mentioned everywhere, including in areas where Iran had reservations.  That was unacceptable.  Regarding the report of the Facilitator, the sections on weapons seizure lacked facts needed for an impartial analysis, and the section on the so-called 2231 list was far too wordy.  Sanctions against Iran had been lifted.  The report could have been limited to that fact.  Still, the document was a good hand over for the new Facilitator.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) welcomed the 17 May report and expressed commitment to working with Iran and its E3+3 partners, including its role on the procurement channel for nuclear goods and services to Iran.  The United Kingdom would continue to work transparently while respecting the rights of Member States and ensure that the new economic opportunities resulting from the lifting of sanctions were taken advantage of.  At the same time, sanctions that remained in place must continue to be robustly enforced by Member States.  He remained concerned about Iran’s behaviour in the region.  That country’s continued testing of ballistic missiles was inconsistent with resolution 2231 (2015).  Missiles tested had been designed to reach at least 300 kilometres and were inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons.  Ballistic missile launches had the potential to heighten regional tensions, and he called on Iran to refrain from provocative actions.  Member States should act on and report all suspected violations of the sanctions regime.  He expressed concern that Iran continued to provide arms shipments to Hizbullah.  Member States must continue to enforce binding restrictions in place under resolution 2231 (2015).  The United Kingdom was committed to ensuring the Plan of Action was a success.  For Iran to benefit from the deal, it must build the confidence of the international community.  Iran must play a positive, responsible role in the significant issues of the region.

WU HAITAO (China) said that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action would succeed so long as the parties kept up confidence in the political settlement process and showed political will.  Implementation was a long process and there would be difficulties and challenges, but it was important to keep in mind the big picture and to consolidate mutual confidence.  It was important for the Secretary-General’s report to reflect implementation in an objective and balanced manner.  The efforts of all parties should be reflected in the report.  China always advocated the settlement of Iran’s nuclear programme through political and diplomatic means.  It had actively participated in the Plan’s negotiations, proposing useful ideas.  His country stood ready to work with all parties and to make new contributions to the Plan.

FODÉ SECK (Senegal) commended the work of Mr. Marchesi, who with help from the Secretariat had managed to make the content of resolution 2231 (2015) more digestible.  That in turn made implementation easier to monitor.  The interface between the Council and the Joint Commission had worked well, with many visits being made to a dedicated website which gave Member States information regarding the Council decision.  His delegation now saw things more clearly on the Plan and the monitoring of actions which might not be in conformity with resolution 2231 (2015).  By and large, Senegal took a positive view of the situation, he said, encouraging the Facilitator and other stakeholders to continue in the right direction.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) welcomed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and text, which brought the region closer to peace and would help to reduce tensions in the region at a crucial juncture.  In that regard, he paid tribute to Iran’s efforts and encouraged it to continue in the same vein.  He noted that the missile launches in March were further referred to in the Secretary-General’s report and there were references to violations of resolution 2231 (2015).  The report was balanced and he hoped that such future documents would contain precise recommendations concerning resolution 2231 (2015), particularly with regard to measures to control ballistic missile launching and nuclear testing.  There was some divergence in views regarding the technical aspects of resolution 2231 (2015), but that should not derail the Council’s mission to deter ballistic missile launching.  Such launching could only heighten tensions between Iran and its neighbours.  The Council’s message should be on the central importance of preserving regional peace and security.

GERARD VAN BOHEMEN (New Zealand) said the Secretary-General’s report was balanced and provided a useful overview of developments since the agreement’s adoption.  He hoped that Iran would seize the opportunity to resets its relationships with the international community and play a more constructive role in the region.  That was urgently needed.  In that regard, reports of conventional arms transfers to Yemen were of particular concern and such transfers were unhelpful for Yemen’s stability.  Provocative actions such as the Iranian launch of ballistic missiles in March also risked further inflaming regional tensions.  Iran had the right to self-defence, but its leaders “cannot not pretend that the intemperate, indeed ridiculous, actions of the Revolutionary Guards are not their responsibility.”  For the Plan to be sustainable, all sides must live up to their commitments, and Iran must act responsibly.

For its part, the New Zealand Government was engaging with the country’s banking sector and others to strengthen commercial ties with Iran, he said.  Reciprocal visits by the New Zealand and Iranian Foreign Ministers had reinforced progress in their bilateral relationship.  However, it had taken longer than expected for the private sector to reengage with Iran.  The complex terms of the Plan had been difficult to navigate, particularly for those not involved in the negotiations.  He encouraged parties to continue to share information and clarify expectations with the private sector.  Outreach efforts under the 2231 (2015) format could help members better understand and fulfil their obligations.

VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) noted that 17 July had marked the second anniversary of the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in the Donetsk oblast of Ukraine.  He recalled the Council’s demand that those responsible be held to account and that all States fully cooperate with efforts to that end.  Ukraine, a strong advocate of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, had so far seen positive developments in the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  At the same time, it shared concerns over the launch of ballistic missiles and the seizure of conventional weapons likely bound to conflict zones.  Such cases ran contrary to resolution 2231 (2015).  He called on all parties to ensure that concerns raised in the reports of the Secretary-General and the Facilitator be duly considered and resolved through negotiations.  He also stressed the importance of refraining from aggressive and war-like rhetoric.

JULIO HELDER MOURA LUCAS (Angola) said that the conclusion of the Action Plan had strengthened the non-proliferation regime.  It showed how the most difficult problems in international relations could be resolved through diplomacy.  The document’s smooth implementation would help build trust and expand cooperation in all areas, including peace and security in the Middle East.  He took note of the measures taken by the Secretary-General and the Facilitator to improve understanding of resolution 2231 (2015).  He also called on the signatories to the Plan to do their utmost to sustain diplomatic cooperation going forward.  As a great regional power, Iran had a key role to play in resolving Middle East conflicts.  He appealed to Iran’s authorities to implement the Plan with good faith and build trust with its partners.

LUIS BERMÚDEZ (Uruguay) said that as a non-nuclear-possessing State and a member of the world’s first nuclear non-proliferation zone, his country was strongly committed to non-proliferation.  He welcomed the report and its statement of Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  He urged parties to intensify talks so that differences of view that had surfaced in the last several weeks regarding certain aspects of resolution 2231 (2015) could be resolved in order to avoid jeopardizing the historic agreement.  It was necessary to maintain momentum created by signing of the Plan and its constructive spirit.

RAFAEL DARIO RAMIREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) said the Iran nuclear agreement was an extraordinary step that had helped to create a climate of trust and would help build international peace and security.  However, the presentation in the Secretary-General’s report of alleged cases of Iran’s non-compliance should have been supported by duly verified information.  Efforts must be made to avoid the same situation in future reports.  Reports should not contain elements that went beyond the scope of resolution 2231 (2015).  Aspects requiring more clarification should not be used for political ends, as that only created a climate of mistrust.  Iran had been working constructively with other countries to identify political solutions to serious conflicts plaguing the Middle East.  The Action Plan and the commitments fulfilled, including the lifting of sanctions, were important, as was refraining from unilateral coercive measures.  Such actions continued to impact Iran.  He urged signatories to the agreement to refrain from any policies that undermined relations with Iran.  There should be an effort to settle differences between the P5 and Iran.  The forging of common positions of Council members could be applied to the conflicts in Syria and Palestine and in fighting violent extremism.  An important step had been taken by Iran, and he hoped it would help other countries to refrain from engaging in the arms race.

RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia) said the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action must continue to underpin the Council’s approach to Iran.  Shared concerns regarding the technicalities of resolution 2231 (2015) were best addressed through active engagement with Iran.  Malaysia was encouraged by the Facilitator’s efforts at transparency, outreach and practical guidance to ensure that the provisions of resolution 2231 (2015) were well understood.  Going forward, Malaysia urged balance, prudence and collective engagement in the Council on facilitating implementation of the resolution.  Divisive discussions on nuclear disarmament were a particular concern for non-nuclear weapons States, he said, urging renewed commitment and action, notably by countries with nuclear weapons, to reinvigorate discussions on the issue, with the aim of achieving a world free of such weapons. 

KORO BESSHO (Japan), Council President for July, speaking in his national capacity, said the Action Plan must be fully implemented in order to strengthen the international non-proliferation regime.  He supported the IAEA’s role in that regard, saying the goal was to ensure that nuclear energy was used only for peaceful purposes in Iran.  To help ensure implementation of the Plan, Japan would provide assistance on nuclear safety.  He said full implementation would strengthen a relationship of trust between Iran and its neighbours, contributing to Middle East peace and security.  Iran’s ballistic missile launch test in March was not conducive to regional stability and Japan had clearly told the country that such actions ran counter to expectations.  Noting that resolution 2231 (2015) would be in place until October 2025, he said that “we are only taking the first steps in a long process”.

For information media. Not an official record.