Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran Nuclear Issue at Crossroads 3 Years Later, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tells Security Council

SC/13398
27 June 2018
8297th Meeting (PM)

Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran Nuclear Issue at Crossroads 3 Years Later, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tells Security Council

Nearly three years after its unanimous endorsement by the Security Council, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear issue was at a crossroads in the wake of the decision by the United States to withdraw from that agreement, the top United Nations official for political matters told the 15-nation organ today.

Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General’s fifth report on the implementation of Council resolution 2231 (2015), saying that since the Plan of Action’s entry into force on 16 January 2016, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had consistently reported that Iran was abiding by its nuclear-related commitments.  Unfortunately, however, the agreement was currently at a crossroads, she said, reiterating the Secretary-General’s deep regret at the announcement by the United States as well as his call upon Iran to carefully consider the concerns of Member States about activities that were allegedly contrary to restrictive provisions set out in annex B of resolution 2231 (2015).

Summarizing the Secretary-General’s report, she said the Secretariat had received information from two unidentified Member States on the supply, sale, transfer or export to Iran of dual-use items that might have been undertaken contrary to resolution 2231 (2015).  The report also reflected information from Israel and Iran on two Iranian missile launches in January 2018, the Organization’s findings on ballistic missiles launched by Houthi rebels in Yemen into the territory of Saudi Arabia, and information from Israel regarding the possible presence of an Iranian drone in Syria, reportedly downed after entering Israeli airspace on 10 February 2018.

In the ensuing debate, delegates discussed, among other things, annex B of resolution 2231 (2015), containing provisions aimed at improving transparency and creating an atmosphere conducive to full implementation of the Plan of Action.

The representative of the United States said Iran continued to destabilize the Middle East through its support for terrorist groups and proxy forces.  The Secretary-General’s report painted a deeply troubling picture, he said, calling on the Council to shine a spotlight on Iran’s behaviour and declaring that it would face consequences for its actions.  Standing up to Iran was a mission that all members of the Council should share, he stressed.

The Russian Federation’s representative, however, criticized elements of the Secretary-General’s report.  In particular, he expressed surprise that it mentioned the withdrawal of the United States only in passing, and that Washington’s imposition of unilateral sanctions on Iran violated resolution 2231 (2015).  He added that the report lacked balance and reflected unfounded accusations against Iran.  Moreover, it was unacceptable for the Secretariat to investigate violations of resolution 2231 (2015) without a Security Council mandate.

Kuwait’s delegate said that while the Plan of Action did not address all the Middle East’s concerns, it could promote regional security.  At the same time, he expressed concern over the Secretary-General’s assessment of ballistic missiles fired from Yemen into Saudi Arabia and pressed the Council to follow up on the non-proliferation and related issues contained in resolution 2231 (2015).

The representative of the European Union delegation said that preserving the Iran nuclear deal was a key security interest for the bloc and the whole international community.  Full implementation of the agreement prevented a nuclear arms race in the region, he emphasized, continuing:  “There is no positive alternative to the JCPOA, which is the fruit of more than 12 years of negotiation and a 104-page document endorsed at the highest level by the international community.”  As long as Iran implemented its nuclear-related obligations, the bloc would remain firmly committed to the full and effective implementation of the deal.

The representative of Germany — which concluded the Plan of Action alongside China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States, Iran and the European Union — said the situation in the region and for European security had taken a turn for the worse following the withdrawal of the United States.  Exiting the Plan of Action would undermine effective multilateralism and the rules-based multilateral order, he said, adding, however, that Germany would remain committed to the agreement so long as Iran complied with its provisions.

Also speaking today were representatives of France, Kazakhstan, United Kingdom, Ethiopia, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Poland, Netherlands (also in his capacity as Security Council facilitator for the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015)), Equatorial Guinea, Bolivia, Peru and Sweden.

The meeting began at 3:22 p.m. and ended at 5:19 p.m.

Briefings

ROSEMARY DICARLO, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, recalled that almost three years ago, the Security Council had endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear issue by unanimously adopting resolution 2231 (2015).  Since that text’s entry into force on 16 January 2016, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had reported 11 times to the Council that Iran had been implementing its nuclear-related commitments.  Unfortunately, the agreement was currently at a crossroads, with the announcement by the United States on 8 May that it was withdrawing from the Plan of Action, a setback deeply regretted by the Secretary-General, who believed that issues not directly related to the agreement should be addressed without prejudice to preserving the agreement.  At the same time, she said, the Secretary-General called upon Iran to consider carefully the concerns of Member States about Iranian activities that were allegedly contrary to restrictive measures contained in annex B of resolution 2231 (2015).

Briefing the Council on the Secretary-General’s fifth report on the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015) (document S/2018/602), she said the document focused on annex B.  On the implementation of nuclear-related provisions, she said the procurement channel was functioning effectively, noting that 13 additional nuclear-related proposals had been submitted to the Council for approval, bringing the total number since implementation day to 37.  However, during the reporting period, the Secretariat had received information from two Member States on the supply, sale, transfer or export to Iran of dual-use items that might have been undertaken contrary to resolution 2231 (2015), she said, adding that those Member States had said that they had initiated internal reviews.  For its part, Iran had told the Secretariat that it was the responsibility of exporting States to seek approval through the procurement channel.  Iran also encouraged more outreach activities to address the lack of awareness among some Member States, she said.

Turning to provisions on ballistic missiles, she said the Secretary-General’s report reflected information from Israel and Iran on two Iranian missile launches in January 2018 as well as the Organization’s finding on ballistic missiles launched by Houthi rebels in Yemen into the territory of Saudi Arabia.  Since the last report, the Saudi authorities had drawn the Secretariat’s attention to nine additional Houthi ballistic missile launches, which in their assessment were Iranian Qiam-1 missiles.  The Secretariat assessed that the debris from five missiles launched at Yanbu and Riyadh since July 2017 shared key design features with the Qiam-1, with some components manufactured in Iran.  Subcomponents of the guidance systems had been produced between 2002 and 2010, she said, adding that the production date range of those subcomponents was incompatible with the Scud missiles in Yemen’s stockpiles prior to the outbreak of the conflict in that country in 2015.  However, the Secretariat was unable to determine whether the missiles, or parts thereof, or related technology, might have been transferred from Iran after the entry into effect of the provisions of annex B on 16 January 2016, she said.

The Secretary-General’s report also reflected information from Israel regarding the possible presence of an Iranian drone in Syria, reportedly downed after entering Israeli airspace on 10 February 2018, she continued.  While the Secretariat had not had the opportunity to examine the debris, images from Israeli authorities showed that its wing configuration appeared consistent with that of an Iranian drone unveiled in October 2016.  According to Iranian media, several Iranian drones had been deployed in Syria, but the Secretariat had no information about who owned or operated them.  She said the Secretariat had also examined arms and related material seized in Bahrain after the entry into effect of the provisions of annex B and had obtained additional information on an explosives-laden unmanned surface vessel recovered by the United Arab Emirates.  In both cases, the Secretariat was confident that some of the material was manufactured in Iran, but it had been unable to confirm whether they had been transferred from Iran after 16 January 2016.

In addition, she said, the Secretary-General’s report noted a 21 May statement by the political leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip that Iran had provided the Al-Qassam brigades and other armed groups with money, military equipment and expertise.  That statement suggested that transfers of arms and related material from Iran may have been undertaken contrary to the provisions of annex B.  The report also highlighted the participation of Iran’s Defence Industries Organization — for the third year in a row — in a defence exhibition in Iraq and provided information on the foreign activities of the Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters in Syria.  Both entities were on the 2231 list and their financial assets and economic resources should have been frozen, she said.  The report also provided information on travel by Major General Qasem Soleimani, she said, reiterating the Secretary-General’s call for all Member States in the region to implement fully their obligations in relation to resolution 2231 (2015).

JOÃO PEDRO VALE DE ALMEIDA, European Union delegation, delivered a statement on behalf of Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, saying that the world was in a difficult situation not foreseen in July 2015, when the Council had unanimously adopted resolution 2231 (2015).  The preservation of the Iran nuclear deal was a key security interest for the European Union and the whole international community.  The full implementation of the agreement prevented a nuclear arms race in the region, he emphasized, continuing:  “There is no positive alternative to the JCPOA, which is the fruit of more than 12 years of negotiation and a 104-page document endorsed at the highest level by the international community.”

As long as Iran implemented its nuclear-related obligations, it would remain firmly committed to the full and effective implementation of the deal, he said.  The European Union, together with other partners, would continue to employ its best efforts to maintain legitimate financial and trade flows, preserving the interest of businesses acting in good faith and with the endorsement of the Security Council.  Within Iran, a difficult debate was being held on the JCPOA and on the benefits it would bring for the country and its citizens, he said.  In that context, the European Union continued to explore with Iran the possibility of preserving legitimate trade and investment as well as continuing the overall bilateral cooperation that had taken place since 2016.

While the agreement dealt with nuclear non-proliferation, a number of serious issues outside the deal continued to cast a shadow on the European Union’s overall relationship with Iran, he said, stressing that the situation in the region had clearly worsened over the last few months.  The European Union was seriously concerned about the recent intensification of military operations in Yemen and continued to call upon Iran to refrain from activities that may deepen mistrust, such as ballistic missile testing.  The situation in the region, including the proliferation of ballistic missiles needed to be addressed as a priority, although those issues were distinct from the JCPOA.  “Dismantling a nuclear deal that is working would certainly not put us in a better position to discuss other issues”, he said, adding:  “Walking away from a robust non-proliferation agreement will not provide a solution to regional tensions or ballistic missile proliferation.”

Turning to the work of the Procurement Working Group, which was responsible for reviewing proposals by States seeking to engage in activities with Iran that were for nuclear and non-nuclear civilian end-use, he said the procurement channel and the Working Group would continue their activities in the same spirit as it continued implementation of other parts of the agreement.  Transparency remained a guiding principle and cornerstone of the deal, and in that context, the Joint Commission would report to the Security Council every six months on the status of the Procurement Working Group’s decisions and on any implementation issues.  Given the challenges related to the procurement channel in the wider JCPOA framework, there was no time for complacency, he stressed.  “Immediate action is required to find a sustainable solution on the overall trade with Iran, since this would also have an important impact on the procurement channel,” he added.

KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands), speaking in his capacity as Security Council facilitator for the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015), summarized his fifth six-month report (document S/2018/624) dealing with the facilitation of talks, transparency and trade.  He recalled that on 20 June, the Council had convened — in its resolution 2231 (2015) format — to review the Secretary-General’s report prior to its public release.  It had also held an open discussion on recent developments.  An open briefing would be held to raise awareness of the resolution and the procurement channel among Member States, he said, adding that since the withdrawal of the United States from the Plan of Action, proposals submitted through procurement channel proposals had continued.  The unanimous adoption of resolution 2231 (2015) marked a fundamental shift in the Iranian nuclear issue, he said, adding that as facilitator, he aimed to support and improve its implementation.

Statements

Mr. COHEN (United States) stressed that Iran continued to destabilize the Middle East through its support for terrorist groups and proxy forces.  The Secretary-General’s report painted a deeply troubling picture of the scope of its behaviour, including violations of arms embargo across the region and the shipment of dual-use items to Iran outside the agreement and without Security Council approval.  It was clear that Iran had supplied weapons to the Houthis, which had then then been fired at targets in Saudi Arabia, he said, while also calling attention to a statement by a Hamas leader, in which he said Iran had provided groups in Gaza with money, military equipment and expertise before the 2014 conflict with Israel.  Those and other examples provided concrete evidence of how Iran was destabilizing the region, particularly by fuelling the conflict in Yemen, he said, noting that it continued to send weapons across the Middle East in blatant violation of the Council’s resolutions.  The only remaining question was how Member States would respond.  Iran had defied and violated a number of Security Council resolutions, in many cases openly, he said, calling upon the Council to shine a spotlight on its behaviour.  The United States was taking a stand and declaring that Iran’s actions would not be tolerated and that it would face consequences, he stressed.  Standing up to Iran was a mission that all members of the Council should share, he said, describing that country as the common denominator in so many conflicts in the region.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said the JCPOA was the result of the perseverance of the international community and the common quest to provide a robust response in support of shared security interests.  Dismantling that agreement would be a serious setback for the region, for the non-proliferation regime and for the security of the entire world, bringing with it potentially serious consequences, he warned.  France had worked relentlessly throughout the negotiating process and was determined to ensure that it was implemented and preserved.  Noting with regret and concern the decision of the United States to withdrawal from the deal, he said the agreement remained and that decision should not have an impact on its implementation.  “For as long as Iran will honour its nuclear commitments under the JCPOA, France will continue honouring its commitments,” he said, pointing out that the deal was designed to ensure that the Iranian nuclear programme was not diverted to military uses.  Reiterating that Iran must honour all its commitments, including those contained under annex B, he said it was nevertheless concerning that the Secretary-General’s report identified elements of its non-compliance with certain provisions, including those related to ballistic missile activities and the transfer of weapons to the Houthis.

KANAT TUMYSH (Kazakhstan) said many regarded the Plan of Action as the only way to ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear programme.  The concerns of the United States about Iran’s ballistic activities and other issues should not impede the agreement’s implementation.  Notifications from some Member States contained in the Secretary-General’s report lacked full and irrefutable evidence proving that Iran had violated resolution 2231 (2015), he said, emphasizing that those notifications required further consideration, thorough investigation and closer coordination between the Council and the Secretariat.

KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) welcomed the well-evidenced report on the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015), saying she was aware of the criticism of it in some quarters.  Its scope and methodology were appropriate and robust, she said, expressing concern over the withdrawal of the United States and that country’s intention to re-impose sanctions on Iran.  The United Kingdom remained committed to the deal as an essential part of the disarmament regime, she said.  “The deal is working.”  The Secretary-General’s report contained concerning information on shipments to Iran of dual-use items without prior Council approval, she said, calling upon the United Nations to investigate those alleged transfers and to report its findings to the Council.  Noting the Secretary-General’s assessment that ballistic missile technology used by the Houthis in Yemen had been transferred by Iran, she said that “chimed” with the assessment of her country’s Government and contravened resolutions 2231 (2015) and 2216 (2015).  Expressing concern over Iran’s testing of missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead, she said the way in which that country pursued its interests was too often threatening to its neighbours and others, including “those of us in Europe”.  Transferring threatening technology had no legitimacy, nor did importing dual-use equipment without Council approval.  Iran’s testing of missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead were not justified, nor was its diversion of resources that only hampered its ability to deliver services to its people, she said, urging that country to refrain from its destabilizing actions.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) noted that the Secretary-General had not received a report on the transfer of dual-use items, goods and technology.  Ethiopia agreed with the Secretary-General that Iran must consider such concerns as they had the potential to impact the context in which the Action Plan was implemented, he said, citing the difficulty created by the withdrawal of the United States, which was a setback.  He urged the accord’s remaining participants to address challenges associated with that withdrawal, including those related to resolution 2231 (2015).

MA ZHAOXU (China) described the Action Plan as an important multilateral achievement and a success story in addressing hot-spot issues through diplomatic means.  Over three years, the Action Plan had proven to be an effective agreement, he said, expressing regret over the withdrawal of the United States.  He Called upon all parties to take a responsible attitude, consider the long term, commit to dialogue and cooperate “with patience” in order to preserve the accord’s authority.  The Secretary-General had expressed deep regret over the withdrawal of the United States, but his report should reflect implementation efforts in an objective and balanced manner, taking Iran’s considerations fully on board, he emphasized.  China would continue to participate in the procurement working group, as it had consistently advocated resolution of the issue through diplomatic means, and would maintain dialogue with all parties concerned in implementing the Action Plan.

ALCIDE DJEDJE (Côte d’Ivoire), acknowledging that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was at an impasse today, said Iran’s implementation of that agreement had been satisfactory, although there was room for improvement.  All concerns must be resolved through established mechanisms, he said, while urging the parties to the agreement to return to the negotiating table while fully adhering to their respective commitments in the spirit of strengthening international security.  Iran should pay special attention to the concerns raised by other Member States, notably those in the Middle East, and step up cooperation with the IAEA.  Côte d’Ivoire also invited Iran to adhere strictly to Security Council resolutions regarding travel bans and asset freezes.

Joanna Wronecka (Poland) said it was in the international community’s common interest to stabilize the situation in the Middle East, reduce tensions and prevent the further proliferation of nuclear weapons.  It was important for Iran to adhere to the Plan of Action’s provisions and refrain from actions that were not in the spirit of that agreement, she said, warning that ballistic tests and reported missile transfers could deepen mistrust.  Proper functioning of the procurement channel would contribute to upholding the non-proliferation regime, she said.

KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) said that preserving the Iran nuclear deal was a clear priority, as it was crucial for the security of the region, of Europe and of the entire world.  The agreement had been delivering on its objective — to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons — and it was based on solid verification.  While expressing deep regret that the United States had decided to withdraw from the agreement, he also said the Netherlands was concerned about Iran’s ballistic missile programme and its destabilizing role in the Middle East.  He strongly condemned any Iranian involvement in the missiles fired at Saudi Arabia by the Houthis from Yemen.

JOB OBIANG ESONO MBENGONO (Equatorial Guinea) said that while the withdrawal of the United States was a “deplorable” setback, all parties should uphold their commitments under the agreement, with any differences to be resolved through negotiation, since the accord guaranteed the civilian use of Iran’s nuclear programme.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) said his country was in a densely populated region that was free of nuclear weapons, expressing hope that the Middle East could become one of those zones.  Underscoring the right to devote research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, he said the Action Plan could not be postponed over a unilateral decision by one Member State.  He deplored the withdrawal of the United States and its re-imposition of sanctions on Iran, which he rejected as a flagrant violation of multilateralism and a threat to the world order that jeopardized the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Bolivia feared it would affect implementation of the Action Plan.

FRANCISCO TENYA (Peru) emphasized that Iran should not undertake any activity on ballistic missiles designed to launch nuclear weapons.  It must act with “the greatest prudence”, he said, expressing concern over the alleged supply of ballistic missile technology to the Houthis in Yemen and encouraging more United Nations training for States on the procedures to be followed.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said Iran should continue to uphold its commitments, and should also quickly endorse the additional protocol to maintain its position as a non-nuclear State.  Kuwait maintained its fixed position on non-proliferation issues and its desire to declare the Middle East a nuclear-weapons-free zone.  While the Action Plan did not address all the region’s concerns, it could promote regional security, he said, encouraging all remaining parties to uphold it.  Underscoring the grounds for the withdrawal of the United States, he expressed concern over the Secretary-General’s assessment of ballistic missiles fired from Yemen into Saudi Arabia, as well as the alleged transfer of arms and material to other States, noting that the Secretariat had been unable to determine the date of the alleged arms transfer.  He condemned the launch of missiles at Saudi Arabia, expressing support for the Arab League’s position in calling for preserving the safety of the region’s peoples.

CARL ORRENIUS SKAU (Sweden) expressed deep regret that the United States had decided to withdraw from the agreement, stressing that the withdrawal risked seriously undermining the international peace and security architecture.  He said that his delegation was seriously concerned about by Iran’s reported violations of the arms embargo and the travel ban put in place under resolution 2231 (2015).  Sweden called upon all Member States in the region to take the necessary steps to fully implement their obligations under that resolution, and upon all actors in the Middle East, including Iran, to de-escalate tensions and contribute to political solutions to the ongoing conflicts and crises in the region.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), Council President for June, spoke in his national capacity, expressing regret over the withdrawal by the United States.  Recalling that his country had condemned irresponsible attempts by that country to undermine the accord, he said those appeals had not been heeded, and today the agreement, which had not been allowed to become fully operational, was under threat.  The decision by the United States had damaged the non-proliferation regime, as well as security in the Middle East, he said, expressing surprise that the report mentioned that decision only in passing.  Describing the imposition of unilateral sanctions as a violation of resolution 2231 (2015), he noted that the report, while calling on States to implement the accord, ignored statements by the United States that were at variance with that appeal.  He further voiced surprise that it also failed to mention that Tehran had started dispute settlement procedures under Action Plan relating to the actions of the United States, a point of which the Secretary-General was duly aware.  The report was imbalanced and reflected unfounded accusations against Iran, he said.

He said it was also unacceptable for the Secretariat to investigate violations of resolution 2231 (2015) without a Council mandate for such an investigation.  Its staff did not have the needed expertise to assess missile systems or conventional weapons, and there was no independent expertise to verify the Secretariat’s findings, he pointed out.  The timing of the alleged arms transfer to the Houthis had not been established, and due to the lack of facts pointing to a violation of resolution 2231 (2015), there were questions around the need for the report to mention a memorandum of understanding between a certain construction company and Syrian authorities, he said.  The report should not contain information from open sources or refer to unverified — or unverifiable — information from certain countries, especially when it had not been provided to the Council, he said, describing that as a malicious attempt to create a negative atmosphere around Iran.  Furthermore, paragraph 7 of the 16 January 2016 note from the Council President provided for semi-annual reports on the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015) as a whole, he said, adding that he expected that future reports would be in compliance with that mandate.

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) expressed regret over the withdrawal of the United States, stressing that alongside its European partners, his country would remain committed to the accord “as long as Iran stays in compliance with its commitments”.  He urged all sides, including Iran, to act in a spirit of responsibility and to remain fully committed to the deal, noting that Tehran was abiding by its nuclear-related restrictions.  The Secretary-General’s findings raised serious concern about possible arms transfers and ballistic missile activity, he said, noting that Germany had followed the investigation by the Panel of Experts on Yemen regarding the 2017 missile attacks against Saudi Arabia, and that further missiles had since been launched.  He expressed concern over the Panel’s finding of Iran’s non-compliance with the arms embargo established by resolution 2216 (2015), calling on Iran to refrain from any such transfers and from further ballistic missile launches, and to make greater efforts in building trust with its neighbours, notably by playing a more constructive role in finding lasting political solutions.

For information media. Not an official record.