Delegates in the Security Council today called for the continued implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme, praising the historic accord as a significant diplomatic achievement that had made the world a safer place in the first year of its performance.
Those views were echoed by Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, who called the accord — agreed on 14 July 2015 by China, France, Germany, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States and Iran — an example of how multilateral diplomacy, political will and perseverance could resolve the most complex issues.
“It will help realize the long-awaited aspirations of the Iranian people to be reconnected to the global economy,” he told the Council during its semi-annual briefing on implementation of resolution 2231 (2015), which endorsed the Plan of Action. Also updating on developments were João Vale de Almeida, Head of the European Union delegation — on behalf of the bloc’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who was Coordinator of the Joint Commission established by the Plan of Action — and Sebastiano Cardi (Italy), in his capacity as Facilitator for the implementation of Council resolution 2231 (2015).
Presenting the Secretary-General’s second report (document S/2016/1136) on the implementation of that text, Mr. Feltman said the Secretary-General had not received any report — nor was he aware of — any open source information regarding the supply, sale or transfer to Iran of nuclear-related items undertaken contrary to the resolution. Nor had he received information regarding Iranian ballistic missile activities or ballistic-missile-related transfers to Iran taken contrary to the resolution.
However, the report outlined details on the seizures of two arms shipments: one by the French Navy in the northern Indian Ocean in March 2016, and another by the Royal Australian Navy off the coast of Oman, in February 2016, both assessed to have originated in Iran. Other concerns centred on a June 2016 statement by the Secretary-General of Hizbullah that that group received its salaries, expenses, weapons and missiles from Iran, and possible ongoing travel violations by individuals on the list maintained pursuant to resolution 2231 (2015).
Mr. de Almeida added that, while progress was undeniable, implementing the Plan of Action would be an ongoing task. The new procurement working group that examined proposals by States seeking to engage in activities with Iran had already reviewed and approved several submissions. Transparency had been a guiding principle, both during negotiations and a cornerstone of the Plan of Action.
Mr. Cardi recalled that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had submitted two quarterly reports on verification and monitoring activities between 16 July 2016 and 15 January 2017. In both, the Agency affirmed that Iran had not pursued construction of its Arak heavy water research reactor on the basis of its original design. Nor had it conducted any uranium enrichment at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant.
In the ensuing dialogue, delegates praised the Plan of Action as a victory for the founding principles of the United Nations. It was essential that all participants adhere to the agreement to ensure its continued success, many said, with Bolivia’s delegate calling it a triumph of multilateralism over unilateralism, and his counterpart from Uruguay expressing strong support as a member of the world’s first nuclear-weapon-free zone.
To scepticism around the use of sanctions, the representative of the United States said those measures had been essential to keeping Iran at the negotiating table until the outcome was achieved. The Plan of Action had demonstrated the “life-and-death importance” of hard-nosed diplomacy. “We achieved something together that none of us could have achieved alone,” she asserted. Japan’s delegate encouraged the Council to use tools such as the Yemen and Somalia Sanctions Committees to obtain relevant information to address cases which might have contravened the provisions of Annex B, on the arms and travel bans.
Yet, Iran continued to play a destabilizing role in the Middle East, some speakers asserted, seen most clearly, said the United Kingdom representative, in its blocking of aid delivery into Aleppo. Iran’s engagement was “misguided” in supplying military and financial support to Hizbullah and the Syrian regime. States should consider whether exporting arms to Iran was in the region’s best interests.
Sharing such concerns, Ukraine’s delegate said it was vital that all parties interact constructively to resolve outstanding issues for the sake of a hard-won non-proliferation deal. Egypt’s delegate added that Iran’s interference in the affairs of Arab States must be addressed and recalled resolutions of the League of Arab States in that regard.
Striking a different tone, the representative of the Russian Federation said the report lacked a request by Iran for the removal of sanctions, and primarily contained references to Annex B, rather than to the entirety of resolution 2231 (2015). He urged the Secretary-General to bolster efforts to examine respect for the entire Plan of Action, stressing that issues raised by non-governmental organizations should also be examined.
Also speaking today were representatives of France, China, Ethiopia, Senegal, Kazakhstan, Italy, Sweden and Germany.
The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 5:05 p.m.
JEFFREY FELTMAN, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — reached by the E3+3 (China, France, Germany, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States) and Iran on 14 July 2015 — was a good example of how multilateral diplomacy, political will and perseverance could resolve the most complex issues. It was imperative that its participants, the United Nations and the international community continued to support its complete implementation for its full duration.
There had been steady implementation, cooperation and progress, he said. Since “Implementation Day” — 16 January 2016 — the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had issued five reports documenting implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments. The Secretary-General underscored the importance of participants equally accruing the full benefits of the accord and called on them to continue to work together in good faith and reciprocity.
As guided by the Security Council, the Secretary-General’s report focused on the implementation of provisions outlined in annex B to resolution 2231 (2015), he said. It did not cover implementation of annex A — carrying out of its nuclear-related commitments by Iran and of their sanctions lifting commitments by other participants — nor touch upon issues within the Joint Commission’s remit.
Discussing its findings, he said the Secretary-General had not received any report — nor was he aware of — any open source information regarding the supply, sale or transfer to Iran of nuclear-related items undertaken contrary to the resolution. Moreover, States had made greater use of the procurement channel process, through which the transfer of those items was approved by the Council on the basis of the recommendation provided by the Joint Commission.
Five nuclear-related proposals had been submitted since July 2016, he said, three of which had been approved and two which were under consideration. Those proposals had been processed in line with the timelines established by resolution 2231 (2015), with due regard for information security and confidentiality. The operational linkages established between the Council and the procurement working group of the Joint Commission were functioning well.
The Secretary-General had not received any information regarding Iranian ballistic missile activities or ballistic missile-related transfers to Iran taken contrary to the resolution, he said. In terms of restrictions on arms-related transfers, the report included information on the seizure of an arms shipment by the French Navy in the Northern Indian Ocean in March 2016. France had concluded that the shipment had originated in Iran and that it had been taken contrary to the resolution’s annex B.
In addition, he said, the Secretariat had received information from Australian and the Combined Maritime Forces on another arms seizure, off the coast of Oman, in February 2016, by the Royal Australian Navy. That arms shipment also had been assessed by the United States Navy to have originated in Iran. Both seizures bore strong similarities with the one reported by the United States in June 2016. The Secretariat looked forward to examining the arms seized in all three instances.
On arms-related transfers, he said a particular concern was the June 2016 televised statement by the Secretary-General of Hizbullah that that group received its salaries, expenses, weapons and missiles from Iran, suggesting that arms transfers from that country to Hizbullah might have been taken contrary to resolution 2231 (2015). The report also noted the November 2016 letter by Israel to the Secretary-General and the Council about the alleged use of commercial flights by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to transfer arms and related material to Hizbullah, and the subsequent response from Iran that such claims were baseless.
On the case of Iranian participation in an arms exhibition held in Baghdad in March 2016, he said Iraqi authorities had confirmed in October 2016 that all items exhibited had been returned to Iran. No further follow-up would be taken by the Secretariat.
Finally, he said, the report drew attention to possible ongoing travel ban violations by individuals on the list maintained pursuant to resolution 2231 (2015), including information on two possible foreign travels by Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi and on numerous possible foreign travels by Major General Qasem Soleimani. That travel was supported by photographic evidence released by Iranian and other regional media outlets. Iraq and Syria did not deny nor confirm such information, but emphasized that no invitations had been extended nor visas issued by their respective authorities to those individuals.
To the Secretariat’s request for clarity on the possible arms transfers to Hezbollah and travel ban violations, Iran underlined that measures taken by the State in combatting terrorism and violent extremism in the region had been consistent with its national security interests and international commitments.
JOÃO 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. Providing an update on recent activities, he said that, with all parties having fulfilled their obligations, progress was undeniable. However, implementing the Plan of Action would be an ongoing task. As part of its work, the Joint Commission had held meetings and provided guidance on implementation issues, with all sides reaffirming at their 10 January meeting their strong commitment to the Plan of Action’s full and effective implementation. “The rigorous implementation of commitments by all sides is the best way to build trust, to strengthen the Plan of Action and to overcome the hurdles that are part of all comprehensive and far-reaching deals,” he said.
He then briefed on the newly established procurement working group tasked with examining proposals by States seeking to engage in activities with Iran, saying the mechanism had already reviewed and approved several submissions. Transparency had been a guiding principle, both during negotiations and a cornerstone of the Plan of Action, and the group’s participants — China, France, Germany, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States and Iran — had worked to further develop modalities of operation. Having held six meetings, the group had made great efforts to ensure transparency without compromising confidentiality by reaching out to third States. Reiterating the Union’s resolute willingness to support the Plan of Action and work for its success, he called on other parties to follow suit by supporting the full implementation of the Plan of Action and resolution 2231 (2015). “This is essential to continue building trust among all and shore up multilateral diplomacy,” he said.
SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy), speaking in his capacity as Facilitator for the implementation of Council resolution 2231 (2015), recalled that the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had submitted two quarterly reports on verification and monitoring activities between 16 July 2016 and 15 January 2017. In both reports, the Agency had affirmed that Iran had not pursued construction of its existing Arak heavy water research reactor on the basis of its original design. The country had also not conducted any uranium enrichment or related research and activities at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant. Additionally, he said, the Director General had recently confirmed the Agency’s verification that Iran had removed all excess centrifuges and infrastructure from the Fordow Plant, in accordance with its commitments under the Plan of Action.
The IAEA had affirmed that Iran continued to permit the Agency’s use of online enrichment monitors and related tools, and to facilitate the automated collection of measurement recordings, he continued, adding that it had received no information on alleged actions inconsistent with resolution 2231 (2015). Iran had sent no formal reply to the Facilitator’s letters of 17 June and 22 July 2016, inviting its Government to comment on two alleged instances of arms transfer, reference to which was contained in the Facilitator’s first six-month report. However, the Permanent Mission of Iran had rejected such allegations, he added. As of mid-July 2016, he continued, the Council had received only one proposal, later withdrawn, to participate in and permit the activities set forth in paragraph 2 of annex B to resolution 2231 (2015). During the reporting period, the procurement channel had begun working more regularly, and had processed five proposals submitted by two Member States. Three of those proposals had already been approved, while the remaining two were currently under review by the Joint Commission, he said.
SAMANTHA POWER (United States), thanking Council members for their remarks, said “it has been the privilege of my life to have worked with each of you”. Noting that some members had expressed growing scepticism about the use of sanctions, she said it had taken almost nine years from the Council’s first imposition of sanctions on Iran to the conclusion of the Plan of Action. Sanctions had been essential to keeping Iran negotiating until the outcome had been achieved, she said, emphasizing that the Plan of Action had demonstrated the “life-and-death importance” of hard-nosed diplomacy. As with other collective achievements – the global response to the Ebola outbreak and the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, among them — concluding the Plan of Action deal had required gruelling negotiations. “We achieved something together that none of us could have achieved alone,” she stressed, adding that the Plan of Action was working. Participants in the negotiations were upholding their commitments, she said, adding that Iran’s plutonium reactor core at Arak was now filled with concrete. What was left of its uranium stockpile was under constant watch.
The United States had implemented its commitment to lift nuclear-related sanctions in full, she emphasized. The Council’s own mechanisms were also working, she said, adding that, when States wished to pursue permitted activities, the Council was ready to consider their requests. Yet, progress should not distract from Iran’s other destabilizing actions in the Middle East, she stressed. It had repeatedly threatened Israel and violated the rights of its own people, and there were reports of its non-compliance with arms-transfer and travel requirements. Israel had reported that Iran used commercial flights to supply arms to Hizbullah, which should be “deeply troubling” to all Council members, she said underlining the need for the Council to push Iran to implement restrictions under resolution 2231 (2015). Emphasizing that the world was better off with the Plan of Action than it had been previously, she said forward progress required collective determination to implement the accord. Quoting a Swedish poet, she said values and ideals were like old-fashioned bicycle lights; they did not light up “unless and until you start to pedal forward”. She urged the Council to “keep pedalling”.
MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said Iran had removed 13,000 centrifuges and associated infrastructure. Applications were being approved and confidentiality was being respected. In turn, Iran’s economic prospects had also improved, with the United Kingdom’s exports to the country growing by 42 per cent in nine months. Yet, Iran continued to play a destabilizing role in the region, seen most clearly in Syria, where it had failed to uphold its obligations under international humanitarian law in that country by blocking the delivery of aid into Aleppo. On the one hand, Iran had been part of a diplomatic success by degrading a threat to the region, but on the other hand, its engagement remained misguided because it supplied military and financial report to Hizbullah and the Syrian regime. Iran must take steps to improve its engagement in the region in 2017, he stressed. Welcoming the latest IAEA report, he said that, in order to benefit fully from the lifting of sanctions, Iran must demonstrate that it had changed its disruptive behaviour. States must enforce sanctions by reporting all suspected breaches, he said, urging them to consider whether exporting arms to Iran was in the region’s best interests. He also expressed concern about Iran’s ballistic missile programme.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) underlined the importance of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and resolution 2231 (2015), emphasizing the crucial role of the IAEA. Iran had begun to see benefits, including growing bilateral trade and oil exports. Regarding nuclear energy, France and Iran had held discussions on launching a bilateral effort in the area of security and fusion. A climate of sustainable confidence that had been established depended on respect for the Plan of Action and related resolution. However, concerns existed, among them reports of conventional arms shipments that violated Annex B provisions. For regional and international security, it was essential that Iran refrained from destabilizing actions. He also expressed concern about the absence of information on activities involving ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Moving forward, collective engagement must continue to guide the rigorous implementation efforts with the same spirit of cooperation that had been seen with the adoption of the Plan of Action and related resolution.
VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation) said the latest report had become more fact-based than preceding ones, yet it continued to contain shortcomings, including the absence of Iran’s request for the removal of sanctions. It primarily contained references to Annex B and not to the entirety of resolution 2231 (2015). Calling on the Secretary-General to bolster monitoring efforts to examine respect for the entire Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, he said issues that non-governmental organizations had raised should also be examined. The aim of the report should help to establish and enhance conditions for implementing the Plan of Action as an important diplomatic achievement. The mechanisms that had been established were working and Iran was completely fulfilling its obligations. In addition, technical issues were being addressed swiftly, as could be seen with recent clean-up efforts at a nuclear plant, he said.
WU HAITAO (China) said progress had been solid and issues that had been raised had been earnestly dealt with in an in-depth manner. For its part, China would continue to actively participate in the Joint Commission and procurement working group. To ensure the successful implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, all parties must strictly commit to the principles contained in the document and address technical issues as they surfaced. They must also act in good faith and ensure that they met their obligations.
KORO BESSHO (Japan), emphasizing the importance of cooperation with the IAEA, said it was verifying and monitoring that Iran’s nuclear programme was used exclusively for peaceful purposes. Japan would provide assistance through the Agency with a view to implementing commitments on nuclear safety and safeguards. The international community had backed Council resolution 2231 (2015), he said, commending the Secretariat for providing an objective and comprehensive report on the matter. “We are aware of some alleged cases which may contravene the provisions of annex B, in particular regarding the arms and travel bans,” he said, encouraging the Council to utilize tools such as the Yemen and Somalia Sanctions Committees to obtain relevant information. Possible contraventions of the arms and travel bans were of concern as they had direct and indirect impact on the region. He believed that Iran could play a constructive role in addressing difficult situations in Syria and Yemen.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said the “implementation day” of 16 January marked a new stage in the Iranian nuclear issue. Emphasizing the importance of full compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, he welcomed detailed IAEA reports on Iran’s nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. He said Ukraine shared concerns about the seizure of conventional weapons that allegedly originated in Iran and were likely going to conflict zones. It was vital that all parties interact constructively to resolve outstanding issues for the sake of a hard-won non-proliferation deal. Given current tensions in the Middle East, he added, it was important to further raise public awareness of the progress made since the Plan of Action entered into force.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia), expressing satisfaction at progress made in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’s implementation, added that recent reports had revealed the agreement to be “firmly on course”. Commending Iran and the other participating countries in that regard, he nevertheless said that some challenges in the Plan’s implementation were only natural, and that a continued spirit of cooperation was critical. Certain issues could lead to ambiguities and different interpretations of the provisions of the Plan of Action or resolution 2231 (2015). In that regard, explanations such as the one provided by the Joint Commission on the temporary transfer of nuclear weapons were necessary to clear misunderstandings. In addition, he raised concerns about the information provided by France relating to the seizure of an arms shipment originating in Iran that was likely destined for Yemen or Somalia, expressing hope that an investigation into the matter would be conducted.
ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said that although progress had been made, matters of concern remained. As a member of the world’s first nuclear-weapon-free zone and a State party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Uruguay strongly supported the Plan of Action, but was concerned about Iran’s reported Annex B violations. Calling for full compliance with all provisions of the historic Plan of Action, he emphasized that the Council, as the guarantor of international peace and security, must ensure full compliance.
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) emphasized the importance of Iran’s complete compliance with the Plan of Action and with Council resolutions, while emphasizing that verification activities must continue. Reiterating the gravity of reports that Iran’s arms trafficking was destabilizing the region, he said such actions would be in violation of the United Nations Charter and the principles of good neighbourliness. Referring to resolutions of the League of Arab States on Iran’s conduct, he said it was important to address that country’s interference in the affairs of Arab States.
FODÉ SECK (Senegal) said the report indicated that Iran was abiding by its obligations within the framework of the Plan of Action. While respected the Plan of Action’s provisions, there were reports of arms deals that contravened Annex B of the Plan of Action, he said, adding that he anticipated more information on that matter would be shared.
BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan), describing his country’s nuclear diplomacy with Iran, said Almaty had hosted two rounds of talks, contributing to the creation of an atmosphere of trust and confidence. Kazakhstan had provided Iran with natural uranium as compensation for its removal of low-enriched uranium. It had also contributed $600,000 to support the IAEA Nuclear Security Fund’s monitoring and verification activities. Pointing out that there had been no report of Iranian Annex B violations, he commended that country’s compliance with Council resolution 2231 (2015). The Plan of Action had had a significant impact on the normalization of the situation inside Iran, and had eased political tensions in the wider Middle East, he noted, predicting that it would also have a positive impact in revitalizing economic activities in the region.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) said the Plan of Action was a victory of multilateralism over unilateralism, and of diplomacy over force. Indeed, diplomacy must produce bridges and demonstrate a union of mutual interests in a peaceful manner. Iran had met its obligations and the sanctions had been lifted, he said, expressing hope that the day would come when other areas of the world were declared free of nuclear weapons, as in the case of Latin America and the Caribbean. The latest report showed progress in implementing the Plan of Action, as well as resolution 2231 (2015), he said, adding that he anticipated the next report would cover both Annex A and Annex B.
Mr. CARDI (Italy), speaking in his national capacity, said the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action showed how diplomacy could resolve nuclear non-proliferation issues. Full implementation would enhance the non-proliferation architecture. The Plan of Action was working for everyone, he said, adding that he was confident that all parties would continue to respect their commitments. Good faith implementation of the Plan of Action and resolution 2231 (2015) would strongly contribute to regional and international peace and security. He encouraged all stakeholders to continue to resolve any possible issues through dialogue, and noted the key role being played by the Council within its competencies and responsibilities. The international community should continue to ensure that the Plan yielded benefits for all and remained a success story.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden), Council President for January, spoke in his national capacity, saying that, despite generally positive developments, several concerns remained. Among them were reports of arms transfers allegedly originating in Iran and contraventions of the resolution’s travel ban. Calling on the Government of Iran to formally respond to reports of such activities, he stressed the importance of the Secretary-General receiving all necessary information and that close dialogue between Iran and the Secretary-General would be instrumental in that regard. “This historic agreement is one of the major diplomatic achievements of the last decade,” he said. “Successful implementation requires a long-term commitment from all parties. This should be based on mutual trust and respect. We must all work towards that end.”
HARALD BRAUN (Germany) described the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as an outstanding success of diplomacy in an extremely volatile region, and a thoughtful agreement that built upon the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. While all participants were keeping their commitments, it was essential that they adhered to the Plan of Action to ensure its continued success. Further, verification and monitoring by the IAEA remained essential to re-establish trust and confidence, and to reassure the world that Iran’s nuclear programme served exclusively peaceful purposes. The easing of sanctions had brought considerable economic progress to Iran over the past 12 months, he said, adding that its people were now beginning to reap the benefits of Iran’s return to international trade and growth.