Tehran, Iran – The remaining parties to a landmark nuclear deal they signed with Iran in 2015 have renewed their commitment to preserving the accord in an online meeting.
The foreign ministers of Iran, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, China and Russia participated in a two-hour meeting chaired by the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, on Monday.
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In a tweet before the meeting, Borrell said the aim is to “re-emphasise our commitment to preserve” the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the nuclear deal is formally known.
Chairing today a virtual ministerial meeting of the E3/EU+2 (China France, Germany, Russia, UK) and Iran – the participants of the #JCPOA – to re-emphasise our commitment to preserve the agreement.
— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) December 21, 2020
A joint statement following the meeting said the ministers “discussed that full and effective implementation of the JCPOA by all remains crucial and discussed the need to address ongoing implementation challenges, including on nuclear non-proliferation and sanctions lifting commitments”.
The foreign ministers recognised the deal, enshrined in Resolution 2231 of the United Nations Security Council, as a “key element” in the global non-proliferation regime and a diplomatic achievement contributing to regional and international peace.
The world powers reaffirmed the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as the only independent and impartial organisation that can technically verify the implementation of the deal’s non-proliferation components.
The foreign ministers also expressed their “deep regret” over the unilateral exit of the United States from the deal in May 2018 that was followed by the imposition of harsh economic sanctions on Iran.
“Ministers agreed to continue dialogue to ensure full JCPOA implementation by all sides,” the statement said.
“Ministers acknowledged the prospect of a return of the US to the JCPOA and underlined their readiness to positively address this in a joint effort.”
US President-elect Joe Biden has promised to bring his country back into the deal and lift sanctions but has hinted that more negotiations are needed on Iran’s missiles programme and regional influence.
The European signatories of the nuclear deal have also made similar remarks, but Iran has categorically rejected any further negotiations, saying the nuclear deal must be implemented as negotiated and signed in 2015.
Speaking after the video conference of officials, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Iran should avoid taking any tactical steps that would make it hard for Biden to reverse President Donald Trump’s decision to quit the deal.
“To make possible a rapprochement with the US under Biden, there should be no further tactical manoeuvres of the kind we’ve seen too many of in the recent past,” he told reporters. “This chance, this last window of opportunity, must not be wasted.”
The virtual meeting on Monday came days after senior diplomats from Iran and other nuclear deal signatories held talks online that were chaired by senior EU foreign affairs official, Helga Schmid.
During that meeting, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said President Hassan Rouhani’s administration is opposed to a recent bill approved by Parliament, but it is bound by law to implement it.
The legislation pushed by the hardliners in Iran’s parliament was greenlit in a matter of days earlier this month in the wake of the assassination of top Iranian nuclear and military scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
Fakhrizadeh was assassinated in late November through what Iran believes was a sophisticated attack by Israel.
The bill calls on the Iranian government and the country’s Atomic Energy Agency to install cascades of advanced centrifuges, increase uranium enrichment, and expel IAEA inspectors if Iran fails to enjoy economic benefits promised under the nuclear deal in two months.
In an interview published on Monday, Iran’s nuclear programme’s chief Ali Akbar Salehi slammed the bill, that among other things obligates the Atomic Energy Agency to build 1,000 next-generation IR-6 centrifuges.
“Where should the money come from? If it’s local resources, then they either don’t know how much local resources we have or they don’t know how much IR-6 centrifuges cost,” he said.