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SC/14736
14 December 2021
8930th Meeting (PM)

Political Affairs Chief Calls for ‘Additional Effort and Patience’ to Revive Iran Nuclear Deal, as Security Council Delegates Urge Sides to Negotiate in Good Faith

Noting that the United States and Iran have reaffirmed their seriousness to return to full implementation of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the top United Nations political affairs official today called on both countries to expeditiously translate these pledges into a mutually acceptable agreement, as she briefed the Security Council on the latest developments.

“There is simply no viable alternative to the full and effective implementation of the Plan,” said Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, during her briefing on the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015), which endorsed the nuclear deal reached by China, France, Germany, United Kingdom, United States, Russian Federation and Iran.

Given the status of the talks, full restoration of the Plan of Action and resolution 2231 (2015) will require “additional effort and patience”, she said, recalling that the Plan itself was the result of more than a decade of determined diplomacy.

Urging the United States — which withdrew from the agreement in May 2018 — to lift or waive its sanctions as outlined in the Plan of Action and to extend the waivers related to oil trade with Iran, she also called for extending the waivers related to certain civilian nuclear-related activities taking place at the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, the Fordow facility and the Arak reactor.  Waiver extensions are also required for the transfer of enriched uranium out of Iran in exchange for natural uranium.

For its part, Iran must reverse any steps that are inconsistent with its nuclear-related commitments, she said.  While the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been unable verify the stockpile of enriched uranium in Iran, it estimates a total enriched uranium stockpile of 2,489.7 kg, including 113.8 kg enriched up to 20 per cent and 17.7 kg enriched up to 60 per cent uranium-235, respectively.  These exceed the limits agreed to in the Plan of Action, she warned.

Björn Olof Skoog, briefing the Council for the European Union, in its capacity as observer, and speaking on behalf of Josep Borrell, Coordinator of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, outlined recent efforts to bring the accord back on track.  Since April, all participants and the United States have engaged in intense negotiations in Vienna, but the talks were paused on 20 June, after which a new President and Government took office in Iran.

Noting that negotiations resumed on 29 November in Vienna, he said the return of the United States to the Plan of Action and resumption of commitments by both sides are the best way to verifiably assure the international community that Iran’s nuclear programme is solely dedicated to peaceful purposes.  Welcoming confirmation by Iran’s new Government that it stands ready to return to full implementation, provided conditions allow for the normalization of its economic and trade relations with the international community, he also cited the commitment by the United States to engage in serious negotiations to possibly return to the accord and, given mutual compliance, potentially lift its sanctions.

Geraldine Byrne Nason (Ireland), Security Council Facilitator for the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015), reported that the Council held one meeting during the reporting period, on 7 December 2021, focused on the Vienna talks, on Iran’s ballistic missile and space vehicle launches and on broader developments relating to resolution 2231 (2015).

In the ensuing debate, delegates took the floor in a divisive discussion.

The representative of the United States said her country is prepared to return to compliance with the Plan of Action so long as Iran does the same.  It is also fully prepared to lift sanctions inconsistent with the accord and reach an understanding on mutual return, if Iran approaches talks in Vienna with urgency and good faith.  “The United States cannot allow Iran to accelerate its nuclear programme and slow-walk its nuclear diplomacy, which is unfortunately what is happening at the talks in Vienna,” she said.  During six rounds of talks in the spring, Iran raised “new nuclear provocations”, staking out unrealistic, maximalist positions on nuclear and sanctions issues, she said, citing the position of the “P5+1” [China, France, Germany, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States] that the outcome of negotiations in Vienna is the only possible basis upon which to reach a conclusion.

Iran’s representative said the Plan of Action can only be restored and implemented if all necessary conditions are met in real terms.  His country is not imposing any preconditions or new conditions.  Attempts to link implementation to extraneous issues or raising ideas such as renegotiation to expand its scope or extend its timelines or proposals are totally unacceptable and doomed to fail, he observed.  Iran has been completely deprived of its rights and benefits under the agreement for almost four years due to the unlawful and inhumane sanctions of the United States, which represent an all-out economic war against Iran.

He said verifiable and objective guarantees that commitments will not be torpedoed, sanctions will not be reimposed and the Plan of Action mechanisms will not be abused are “absolutely necessary”.  Iran’s peaceful nuclear programme has undergone the most robust and intrusive nuclear verification ever conducted, he stressed, noting that Iran has paid a heavy price to preserve the Plan of Action.

France’s delegate said his country and other European parties to the Plan of Action have lifted European sanctions in accordance with the established timetable, opposed the withdrawal of the United States and sounded the alarm on Iran’s nuclear programme exceeding the limits outlined in the accord.  Pointing out that Iran’s nuclear programme has never been more advanced than it is today, he said Iran has two options:  continue on the current path of escalation that could lead to the collapse of the Plan of Action or urgently opt for a return to a broad and fair agreement.  “It’s a question of weeks, not months,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Russian Federation’s delegate discouraged Western colleagues from making hasty comments about Iran’s negotiating position, which is still developing.  Noting that “it is easier to break than build”, he said “the main wrecker role” was played by the United States, which left the Plan of Action in 2018.  The United States continues its policy of maximum pressure on Iran, whose actions have been in reaction to those destructive steps.  It is dangerous and irresponsible to say the Plan of Action is outdated.  The deal is the most significant confidence-building measure at the international level, he said, and trust is impossible without it.

Germany’s delegate noted that Iran has taken extremely far-reaching steps that are incompatible with its commitments under the Plan of Action, some of which do not have plausible civilian use.  Pointing out that it has curtailed IAEA monitoring activities, she urged Tehran to fully cooperate with the Agency.  Germany also considers Iran’s development of ballistic missiles designed to deliver a nuclear weapon as inconsistent with Annex B to resolution 2231 (2015).

Mexico’s delegate joined other Council members that are not parties to the Plan of Action in expressing support for the agreement.  The accord represents a substantial change in the way the Council addresses Iran’s nuclear programme by moving away from sanctions towards cooperation and trust.  He emphasized the need to reactivate the Plan of Action without preconditions.  Unilateral sanctions must be lifted, and Tehran must reassume commitments made in 2015.

Also speaking were the representatives of the United Kingdom, Viet Nam, India, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ireland, Norway, Tunisia, China, Kenya, Estonia and Niger.

The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 5:06 p.m.

Briefings

ROSEMARY DICARLO, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, presented the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2021/995) on the implementation of Security Council resolution 2231 (2015), which endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme.  Noting that on 29 November, diplomatic efforts on the Plan of Action resumed in Vienna, she said the status of the talks indicates that full restoration of the Plan of Action and resolution 2231 (2015) will require additional effort and patience, given that the Plan itself was the result of more than a decade of determined diplomacy.  “The endeavour, however, was worth it,” she affirmed.  The Plan of Action, together with the subsequent resolution, is widely regarded as a cornerstone of nuclear non-proliferation and an example of what dialogue and diplomacy can achieve.

Echoing the Secretary-General’s hopes, she urged the United States and Iran to mobilize the same spirit and commitment in their current talks.  “There is simply no viable alternative to the full and effective implementation of the Plan and the resolution,” she declared.  In this regard, she appealed to Washington, D.C., to lift or waive its sanctions, as outlined in the Plan of Action, and extend the waivers regarding the trade in oil with Iran.  Also important is the extension of United States waivers regarding certain civilian nuclear-related activities taking place at the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, the Fordow facility and the Arak reactor.  Waiver extensions are also required for the transfer of enriched uranium out of Iran in exchange for natural uranium.

In addition, she called on Iran to reverse steps taken that are inconsistent with its nuclear-related commitments under the Plan of Action.  In this reporting period, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) indicated that Iran has continued its research and development activities related to uranium metal production.  While the Agency has been unable to verify the stockpile of enriched uranium in Iran, it estimates a total stockpile of 2,489.7 kg, including 113.8 kg enriched up to 20 per cent and 17.7 kg enriched up to 60 per cent uranium-235, respectively.  These exceed the limits agreed to in the Plan of Action, which is a total enriched uranium stockpile of 202.8 kg, enriched up to 3.67 per cent uranium-235.

Moreover, on 1 December, the IAEA reported that Iran had also begun uranium enrichment using advanced centrifuges at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant, she said.  The Agency also has reported that its verification and monitoring activities have been “seriously undermined” as a result of Iran’s decision to stop implementation of its nuclear-related commitments under the Plan, including the Additional Protocol.  Most recently, the IAEA stressed that in the absence of regular access to its verification and monitoring equipment, as agreed to under the Plan of Action, it is now becoming a significant challenge for the Agency to restore its “continuity of knowledge” concerning Iran’s nuclear activities.

Noting that the Plan of Action and resolution 2231 (2015) support common objectives of nuclear non-proliferation and regional and international security, she said the bilateral and multilateral initiatives to improve relationships with Iran are positive developments.  It is important for Iran to address concerns raised by participants in the Plan of Action and by other Member States in relation to resolution 2231 (2015).  She also called on Member States and the private sector to engage in trade with Iran and to use available arrangements, such as the International Support of Trade Exchanges, the procurement channel provided for in resolution 2231 (2015) and the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement, as appropriate.

Turning to the measures set out in Annex B to the resolution, she said the Council received eight notifications for certain nuclear-related activities consistent with the Plan of Action.  During the reporting period, the Secretariat received information regarding the possible transfer of nuclear-related dual-use items to Iran.  In one instance, the Secretariat confirmed that the items exported from Germany were not on the list of dual-use items contained in resolution 2231 (2015), and hence did not require Council approval before transfer.  In a second instance, an individual was charged in Norway for providing technical assistance to four researchers from Iran regarding an item on the dual-use items list.  This case is pending trial scheduled for 2022.  Regarding the ballistic missile-related provisions, she said France, Germany, Iran, Israel, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the United States provided information to the Secretary-General and the Security Council concerning a ballistic missile launch in May 2021 and two space launch vehicle tests in June 2021 by Iran.  The information reflects divergent views among those Member States as to whether those launches are inconsistent with paragraph 3 of resolution 2231 (2015).

She went on to note that the Secretariat also received information from Saudi Arabia and Israel related to paragraph 4 of Annex B.  This paragraph pertains to the supply, sale or transfer to or from Iran of all items, materials, equipment, goods and technology set out in Council document S/2015/546, which includes ballistic missiles and unmanned arial vehicles with a range of 300 km or more, including target and reconnaissance drones, and cruise missiles.  The Secretariat examined the debris of six ballistic missiles, one cruise missile and several unmanned aerial vehicles used in various attacks against Saudi Arabia.  Saudi authorities believe that these weapons systems had been transferred to Houthi fighters in Yemen in a manner inconsistent with resolution 2231 (2015).  The Secretariat also had the opportunity to examine the debris of an alleged Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle intercepted by the Israel Defense Forces as the object entered Israel’s airspace via the border with Jordan.  Israeli authorities believe that it was launched from either Iraq or Syria.  The Secretariat is still analysing the information collected and will report back to the Council on these issues in due course.

In recent days, both Iran and the United States have again affirmed their seriousness in seeking to return to full implementation of the Plan of Action, she said, adding that the Secretary-General is encouraged by these pledges and calls on both countries to expeditiously translate these commitments into a mutually acceptable agreement.

BJÖRN OLOF SKOOG, briefing the Council for the European Union, in its capacity as observer, and speaking on behalf of Josep Borrell, Coordinator of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, noted that since April, all participants, and the United States, have engaged in intense negotiations in Vienna to bring the Plan of Action back on track.  The talks were paused on 20 June, after which a new President and Government took office in Iran.  Since then, the European Union High Representative has held consultations in Tehran and Brussels to bring that country back to the negotiations, along with coordination with other participants and the United States.  Noting that negotiations resumed on 29 November in Vienna, he affirmed that the return of the United States to the agreement and resumption of commitments by that country and Iran are the best alternative to verifiably assure the international community that Iran’s nuclear programme is solely dedicated to peaceful purposes — and that Iran can reap benefits through the lifting of sanctions.

He stressed that there is not much time left in light of Iran’s accelerating nuclear programme, voicing concern that the country has continued to expand its nuclear activities — accumulating more enriched uranium at 20 per cent and 60 per cent, installing more advanced centrifuges and producing uranium metal — activities not only inconsistent with the Plan of Action, but raising serious non-proliferation concerns, particularly since Iran decided to suspend implementation of the Additional Protocol and transparency provisions as of 23 February 2021.  Those actions substantially decreased IAEA access to information on the nuclear programme — a lack of cooperation that is a source of grave concern.

He welcomed confirmation by Iran’s new Government that it would stand ready to return to full implementation, provided conditions allow the normalization of its economic and trade relations with the international community, as the country has faced serious negative consequences following the United States withdrawal and re-imposition of previously lifted unilateral sanctions.  He also cited the United States administration’s commitment to engage in serious negotiations to possibly return to the Plan of Action, noting that, given mutual compliance, the United States would be prepared to lift all related sanctions.  The procurement channel remains operational, he recalled, a vital transparency and confidence-building mechanism offering assurances to Member States and private sector actors that transfers of nuclear and dual-use goods and services are fully in line with resolution 2231 (2015) and the Plan of Action.  Urging all Member States to refrain from actions and statements that increase regional and international tensions, he stressed that the European Union has repeatedly called on Iran to desist from activities that could deepen mistrust.  Noting that the Plan of Action is anchored in global non-proliferation and is the outcome of effective multilateralism, he said there is no “other viable option” to making it work.

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), Security Council Facilitator for the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015), reported that the Council held one meeting in the “2231 format” over the reporting period of 25 June to 7 December 2021.  That meeting, on 7 December 2021, featured discussion on the resumption of talks in Vienna, on ballistic missile and space vehicle launches by Iran and on broader developments relating to resolution 2231 (2015).  She also observed that a total of 20 notes were circulated within the “2231 format”, in addition to several official communications sent to and from Member States and the Coordinator of the Procurement Working Group of the Joint Commission.  Among the communications circulated were two regular quarterly reports issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency in September and November 2021.  On this, she emphasized that IAEA’s impartial, professional verification and monitoring activities in Iran are essential, underpinning confidence in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action itself.

She went on to say that no new proposals were submitted to the Council through the procurement channel during the reporting period, and that the channel itself represents a key transparency- and confidence-building mechanism under the Plan of Action.  She joined the Secretary-General in encouraging all Plan of Action participants, Member States and the private sector to fully support and use this channel.  Stressing that the Plan of Action is a major achievement in nuclear non-proliferation — and an example of how the international community can work together to resolve protracted, difficult issues through dialogue and diplomacy — she said that the accord remains the best way to guarantee the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.  Resumed talks in Vienna offer the prospect of the United States’ possible return to the Plan of Action — and the full, effective implementation of the instrument by all sides.  She expressed hope that the talks will build on progress made in earlier rounds and rapidly reach a positive conclusion.

Statements

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) recalled President Joseph R. Biden’s statement that the United States is prepared to return to compliance with the Plan of Action so long as Iran does the same.  The United States is fully prepared to lift sanctions inconsistent with its Plan of Action commitments and reach an understanding on mutual return if Iran approaches talks in Vienna with urgency and good faith.  However, “the United States cannot allow Iran to accelerate its nuclear programme and slow walk its nuclear diplomacy, which is unfortunately what is happening at the talks in Vienna,” she said.  During six rounds of talks that took place in the spring, Iran raised “new nuclear provocations”, staking out unrealistic, maximalist positions on nuclear and sanctions issues, she said, adding that the “P5+1” (China, France, Germany, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States) is of the position that the outcome of negotiations in Vienna is the only possible basis upon which to reach a conclusion.

She went on to quote United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s words, that Iran is “almost out of runway” in returning to the agreement, adding that the advancement of Iran’s nuclear programme and its lack of urgency are hollowing out the non-proliferation benefits reached by a return to the accord.  “Iran’s escalation raises questions about their intentions,” she stressed, adding:  “Let me be clear; Iran’s actions will not provide Iran with any leverage in negotiations, and only intensify our concerns with their activities.”  She underscored the need for continued implementation of the sanctions set out in annex B of Council resolution 2231 (2015), pertaining to individuals subject to an asset freeze, among other restrictions.  She commended the mention in the Secretary-General’s report on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles and ballistic missile technology in the region, which, she stated, is destabilizing Yemen, Iraq and regional maritime security.  The Houthis were able to launch sophisticated strikes in Saudi Arabia and densely populated Yemeni cities due to Iran’s increased use of such technologies, she said, calling for these activities to be investigated as they might possibly violate annex B of resolution 2231 (2015).

Moreover, Iran’s harassment of IAEA inspectors monitoring the Safeguard Agreement is in contravention of their diplomatic privileges, as well as “simple decency”, she said, adding that concerns related to undeclared nuclear material and activities must be resolved without delay.  She called for the full implementation of the Joint Statement negotiated with IAEA chief Rafael Grossi on 12 September, and for full support to be extended to its monitoring responsibilities, emphasizing that the diplomatic process under way is the best approach to limit Iran’s nuclear programme and address the full range of concerns with its activities in the region and beyond.  She went on to call for a mutual return to compliance, expanded diplomatic cooperation and for Iran to “show seriousness at the table and come back to compliance in short order, as the United States has made clear we are prepared to do.”

BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) reiterated her country’s priority to see the United States return to the agreement and Iran to return to compliance.  During talks in Vienna, Iran has introduced new maximalist demands, many of which go beyond the Plan of Action.  “The process is not moving fast enough and time is running out,” she stressed, noting that Iran’s nuclear escalation is undermining international peace and security and the global non-proliferation system.  Iran has continued to develop a ballistic missile programme, which is inconsistent with resolution 2231 (2015).  “The Iranian nuclear programme has never been more advanced than it is today,” she warned, adding that the country’s total stockpile contains enough fissile material to produce several nuclear weapons.  Moreover, Iran is producing highly enriched uranium, which is unprecedented for a State without a nuclear weapons programme, as well as uranium metal, which provides weapons-applicable knowledge.  If Iran continues its current path of nuclear escalation, in weeks, not months, it will be responsible for collapsing the Plan of Action and provoking a serious crisis, which would require a robust response from the Council, she asserted.

PHAM HAI ANH (Viet Nam) said the resumption of nuclear talks in Vienna reflects efforts by the parties to bridge differences and address challenges after five months of delays.  Commending IAEA verification and monitoring efforts in Iran despite significant challenges, he reiterated the call for full cooperation for monitoring purposes, as transparency is a crucial confidence-building aspect of the Plan of Action.  He called parties to spare no effort to resolve differences, exercise self-restraint and refrain from acts that could erode trust.  Reiterating that the accord is the best way to ensure a comprehensive, long-term and proper solution to the Iranian nuclear issue, he emphasized the importance of balanced implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty’s three pillars, namely nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico) expressed support for the Plan of Action as an example of multilateral diplomacy and a major component in the stability of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture.  This agreement represents a substantial change in the way the Council addresses Iran’s nuclear programme by moving away from sanctions towards cooperation and trust, he explained.  He emphasized the need to reactivate the Plan of Action without preconditions, which means unilateral sanctions against Iran must be lifted, and that Iran must reassume commitments made in 2015.  While recognizing the legitimacy of those who promote consideration of regional security, he called for a separate discussion, without additional conditions, on reactivation of the Plan of Action.  He referred to the regular reports of the IAEA Director General detailing disturbing activities, such as the increasingly advanced enrichment of uranium in metallurgy, as well as the use of more modern and sophisticated centrifuges and the restricted access of IAEA inspectors to facilities and sites not declared under the Optional Protocol.  He recommended transparency and cooperation as crucial elements for the proper functioning of the Plan of Action, encouraging Iran to renew the agreement with IAEA to preserve monitoring and verification activities and stressing that recent missile launches only lead to mistrust.

RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India) said that his country supports full, effective implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and resolution 2231 (2015).  India also supports the peaceful resolution of relevant issues through dialogue and diplomacy, he said.  Welcoming the IAEA Director General’s efforts to implement the Agency’s verification and monitoring activities in Iran, he urged that country to continue cooperating with IAEA in the effective discharge of the Agency’s functions and to address unresolved issues relating to its nuclear activities.

DIANI JIMESHA PRINCE (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) urged the United States to rejoin the Plan of Action and immediately lift all unilateral coercive measures, which has become even more urgent as these sanctions have considerably limited Iran’s ability to effectively respond to COVID‑19.  Expressing regret over Iran’s decision to cease performing several of its nuclear-related commitments, she urged it to return to full compliance with the accord.  The Plan of Action remains the only viable path to ensure a peaceful, comprehensive and long-term solution to the Iranian nuclear issue, she noted, expressing support for the Vienna nuclear talks.  Resolution 2231 (2015) and the Plan of Action were not only conceived to guarantee the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme but also to nurture an environment that promotes the development of normal trade and economic relations with the country, she stressed.

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), speaking in her national capacity, welcomed the resumption of talks in Vienna after five months, as a swift conclusion and return to full implementation of the agreement by all sides is within reach.  It is imperative that the United States fully meet its commitments, including the lifting of sanctions, and take all necessary steps to facilitate implementation of the Plan of Action and resolution 2231 (2015), so the Iranian people see the real benefits that are an essential part of the agreement.  It is similarly imperative for Iran to return fully to implementation of its commitments, she said, voicing concern over uranium enrichment up to 60 per cent; further fabrication, installation and use of advanced centrifuges; and uranium metal production — all of which may seriously undermine the Plan of Action and the broader nuclear non-proliferation regime.  She further expressed concern at Iran’s decision to suspend implementation of transparency measures under the Plan of Action, noting it is critical for IAEA to restore continuity of knowledge at all locations in Iran.  Iran must cooperate fully with the Agency to ensure all necessary access to this end, she affirmed.

TRINE SKARBOEVIK HEIMERBACK (Norway) stressed that the full and effective implementation of the Plan of Action is the best available opportunity to help build international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.  She expressed regret over the United States’ decision to withdraw from the accord in 2018 and unilaterally reimpose sanctions.  She also expressed deep regret that Iran has taken a series of steps to reduce its nuclear-related commitments, noting as well that it continues to advance its nuclear programme, stressing that Iran’s deliberate steps of nuclear escalation present a serious challenge to the international community and complicate the return to a functioning Plan of Action.  She urged Iran to return to full compliance with the accord and IAEA, and to address concerns raised previously over ballistic missile-related provisions.  “The situation surrounding the [Joint Plan of Action] remains tense and unpredictable,” she said, reiterating the call on all stakeholders to avoid actions that might foster escalation and encouraging Iran to engage in serious negotiations.

NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said that since 2015, his country and other European parties to the Plan of Action have demonstrated unwavering commitment to the full implementation of the agreement and resolution 2231 (2015) by lifting European sanctions in accordance with the established timetable.  The European parties opposed the withdrawal of the United States and sounded the alarm on Iran’s nuclear programme going beyond the limits provided for in the agreement.  Despite significant progress made in the spring, Iran, after its presidential election, has continued to delay negotiations.  “The survival of the Iranian nuclear deal is under greater threat than ever,” he warned, stressing that the Security Council cannot ignore the seriousness of the situation.  Time is of the essence, he stressed, pointing out that Iran’s nuclear programme has never been more advanced than it is today.  “We are at a crossroads,” he observed, noting that Iran has two options:  Continue on the current path of escalation that could lead to the collapse of the Plan of Action or urgently opt for a return to a broad and fair agreement.  The diplomatic channel remains open, but it is “our last chance” to restore the Plan of Action.  It’s a question of weeks, not months.

MOEZZ LAOUANI (Tunisia) expressed the hope that discussions to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action will conclude successfully and renewed the call for the full and effective implementation of the agreement and of resolution 2231 (2015) by all parties.  While taking note of the differences of interpretation regarding the implementation of provisions dealing with ballistic missile-related activities, he said due consideration must be given to regional security concerns.  He urged all parties to refrain from any activities and rhetoric that can deepen mistrust or aggravate tensions, and to engage in good faith in dialogue.  He went on to underline the importance of establishing a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.  The recently concluded — and successful — session of the United Nations Conference, geared towards elaborating a treaty establishing such a zone, and in which Arab countries and Iran participated constructively, represents a positive step towards this goal that deserves full support.

DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said his delegation joined consensus on the report despite harbouring some criticism.  With the world focused on the Vienna negotiations and the complex return to the framework of the Plan of Action, he urged the international community to demonstrate strategic restraint, along with parties to the agreement and members of the Council.  He expressed discouragement in Western colleagues making hasty comments about Iran’s negotiating position, which is still developing, meaning that any far-reaching conclusions outlined in New York are inappropriate.  Noting that “it is easier to break than build”, he said “the main wrecker role” was played by the United States, leaving the Plan of Action in 2018.  The international community waited for six months while the Biden administration determined its policy, he said, explaining why the process has been slow.  United States policy, not Iran’s, is the source of the problem.  The United States must confirm its words with deeds, but instead, it continues its policy of maximum pressure on Iran, whose actions have been in reaction to those destructive steps.  It is dangerous and irresponsible to say the Plan of Action is outdated, as it contains a careful balance of interests and must not brook any deletions or additions.  It cannot be irrelevant, as there is no alternative to it.  Iran is the most thoroughly verified State in the world, he stressed, and the deal is the most significant confidence-building measure at the international level, as trust is impossible without it.  He noted that the report does not clearly single out the source of the current situation around the Plan of Action, citing contraventions of resolution 2231 (2015) by the United States, which should not be considered the norm.  Expressing concern over the Secretariat’s illegitimate practice of conducting investigations without mandate or expertise, he affirmed that any sections of the report related to those actions should not be repeated in a future document.

GENG SHUANG (China), recalling that the Plan of Action was a major outcome of multilateral diplomacy 10 years in the making, pointed to the negative effects resulting from the United States’ withdrawal from that critical pillar of the international non-proliferation regime three years ago.  However, there are new opportunities in Vienna for the United States and Iran to return to compliance, and the parties must seize these opportunities and meet each other halfway with a view to advancing negotiations to this end.  Noting that the resumption of negotiations will constitute a litmus test for the United States’ renewed commitment to multilateralism, he said that country should lift all illegal sanctions on Iran and third parties, and that Iran, for its part, should resume full compliance with the Plan of Action.  Further, repeated hyping of Iran’s missile launches and exerting pressure on that country through IAEA only serve to impede current negotiations and undermine efforts to preserve the Plan of Action.  Iran, however, must recognize concerns over the rapid development of its nuclear capacity and address outstanding issues.  Underscoring that there cannot be peace in the world so long as the Middle East remains unstable, he added that maintaining the Plan of Action fosters regional peace and stability.

EVA NTHOKI (Kenya), reaffirming that global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons constitute the core guarantee against the use, or threat of use, of nuclear weapons, described the Plan of Action and resolution 2231 (2015) as critical multilateral mechanisms.  The decision by the United States to reaffirm the measures and provisions contained in resolution 2231 (2015) early this year, and the engagement by the United States and Iran in ongoing negotiations, are important positive steps to the full and effective implementation of these instruments.  Noting that Kenya closely follows the renewed diplomatic talks in Vienna, she said their outcome must provide a clear and practical road map within the current imperatives.  It also must outline the steps needed for the United States and Iran to return to the full and effective implementation of the Plan of Action and resolution 2231 (2015), ensure that all parties adhere to their commitments — including the lifting of additional sanctions and all retaliatory measures — and safeguard the equipment and important verification and monitoring work of the International Atomic Energy Agency.  She encouraged Iran to implement fully its safeguards agreement, as well as its voluntary transparency and implementation measures with IAEA as before.  This includes Iran taking ownership of and committing to the Plan of Action through non-violation and refraining from further action on irreversible measures it has undertaken.

ANDRE LIPAND (Estonia) said his country is strongly committed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  He expressed deep concern that, since 2019, Iran has reduced the implementation of its nuclear-related commitments under the accord.  The level of uranium enrichment Iran has undertaken along with its research and development activities related to uranium metal production has no plausible civilian justification.  He called on Iran to return to compliance with its nuclear commitments under the Plan of Action without delay.  Iran’s failure to allow full IAEA monitoring activities augments concerns that Iran could be using its equipment for malign purposes.  He urged Iran not to transfer any missile, missile component, missile technology or unmanned aerial vehicle systems to non-State actors.

ABDOU ABARRY (Niger) took note of the Secretary-General’s conclusions on the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015), called on all Plan of Action parties to comply with their obligations and reaffirmed support for full implementation of the resolution.  He welcomed the resumption of diplomatic efforts around the Joint Commission in Iran and the E3+3 (China, France, Germany, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States, with the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy) between April and June, as well as the talks in Vienna since 29 November, aimed at ensuring the United States’ return to the agreement.  The procurement channel is an essential mechanism for ensuring transparency and guaranteeing that the transfer of dual-use and related items occurs in line with resolution 2231 (2015), he said, calling on all parties to the Plan of Action to refrain from measures that would hamper the ability of others to comply.  Effective implementation of the Plan of Action was underscored at the 21 December 2020 ministerial meeting involving China, France, Germany, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and Iran, and chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.  The expiration on 24 June of the bilateral technical agreement between IAEA and Iran — and its non-renewal — is a source of worry and a setback for the monitoring of activities, he said, calling on Iran to consider requests for an extension by IAEA to allow the Agency to continue its work.  Expressing concern about the uptick in tensions in the Persian Gulf region, he called for sanctions to be eased on humanitarian grounds, to enable Iran to better cope with challenges posed by the COVID‑19 pandemic, and to “contribute to a climate of trust, and the nudging along of certain positions in the negotiations currently under way.”

MAJID TAKHT RAVANCHI (Iran) said the Plan of Action can only be restored and implemented if all necessary conditions are met in real terms.  Iran is not imposing any preconditions or new conditions, solely those embedded in the Plan of Action and resolution 2231 (2015); but without full satisfaction of those terms, the accord is useless for the Iranian people.  Attempts to link implementation to extraneous issues or raising ideas such as renegotiation to expand its scope or extend its timelines or proposals are totally unacceptable and doomed to fail, he said.  Noting the pillars of the Plan of Action are Iran’s nuclear-related commitments and the reciprocal lifting of United Nations, European Union and United States sanctions, as well as promoting normal economic and trade relations with Iran, he said his country has been completely deprived of its rights and benefits under the agreement for almost four years.  The unlawful and inhumane sanctions imposed by the United States represent an all-out economic war against Iran, equivalent to economic terrorism.  Quoting the United Nations Special Rapporteur as stating that sanctions are “destroying the economy and currency of Iran”, resulting in the loss of many lives, he said Iran’s steps in its programme will be immediately reversed as soon as other parties implement all their obligations in full.

Therefore, he said the provision of verifiable and objective guarantees that commitments will not be torpedoed anymore, sanctions will not be re-imposed and the Plan of Action mechanisms will not be abused is “absolutely necessary”.  Iran’s peaceful nuclear programme has been under the most robust and intrusive nuclear verification ever conducted in a country, he stressed.  Iran has exercised maximum restraint and paid a heavy price to preserve the Plan of Action.  Therefore, asking for objective and verifiable guarantees from the party “responsible for the whole mess” is absolutely warranted and necessary.  If the other sides have a genuine political will to revive the Plan of Action, they must be courageous enough to accept full, effective and verifiable implementation of all their 2015 obligations.  He further noted that launches by Iran of ballistic missiles and space vehicles are completely outside of the purview of resolution 2231 (2015), as developing a conventional missile programme is an inherent right under international law.  The current Vienna talks can succeed, he affirmed — not by setting artificial deadlines or introducing threats, unfounded accusations or disinformation campaigns, but only by engaging in negotiations with genuine political will and in good faith.  Iran’s foreign policy is based on the full respect for international law and good neighbourliness, he stated, while the important source of insecurity and instability in the region is the massive United States military build-up, along with certain European countries exporting deadly weapons, turning it into a powder keg.  With such a record, he called it ironic that the United States and some European countries now accuse Iran of destabilizing behaviour.

ANTJE LEENDERTSE (Germany) said restoring the Plan of Action is both urgently required and possible.  During the past six months, Iran has escalated its nuclear programme by taking extremely far-reaching steps that are incompatible with its commitments, some of which also do not have plausible civilian use.  These steps include the development and use of advanced centrifuges way beyond the agreement’s limits, uranium enrichment of up to 60 per cent, ever-growing stockpiles of enriched uranium and ongoing research and development related to uranium metal production, including enriched uranium metal.  Expressing great concern over Iran’s lack of transparency, and its curtailing of IAEA monitoring activities, she urged the country to fully cooperate with the Agency and fully restore the Plan of Action monitoring and transparency measures.  “If Iran engages seriously in the diplomatic process, a good deal for Iran — and for all of us — can be reached rapidly,” she said.  Germany considers Iran’s development of ballistic missiles designed to deliver a nuclear weapon — including launches using such ballistic missile technology — as inconsistent with paragraph 3 of annex B of resolution 2231 (2015), expressing great concern about Iran’s development of relevant ballistic missile types and continued tests.  She reaffirmed the need for all States, in particular Iran, to comply with the prohibition of transfers of Missile Technology Control Regime-listed items to and from Iran, adding that the delivery of missile technology to non-State actors must end immediately.

For information media. Not an official record.