Iran’s Zarif says ending arms ban ‘inseparable’ from nuclear deal

As the US tries to rally support to extend UN arms embargo on Iran it faces scepticism from UNSC members.

Iran''s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a meeting with Russia''s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia June 16, 2020. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
Iran's Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says changing the timetable for the removal of an arms embargo would undermine the entire nuclear deal [File: Handout via Reuters]

Iran has said the preservation of its nuclear accord with world powers depends on the scheduled end in October of a UN arms embargo as the United States seeks to extend it.

“The timetable for the removal of arms restrictions embodied in Resolution 2231 is an inseparable part of the hard-won compromise,” Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) session, referring to the resolution that blessed the 2015 deal signed to curb the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

“Any attempt to change or amend the agreed timetable is thus tantamount to undermining Resolution 2231 in its entirety,” he said.

His comments were made after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the UN body to extend the embargo on Iran.

Washington has circulated a draft resolution to the 15-member council that would indefinitely extend the embargo but Russia and China have already signalled their opposition to such a move.

“If Iran isn’t a threat to peace and security I do not know what it is,” Pompeo said, warning that the embargo’s expiration would risk the stability of the Middle East.

“Iran will hold a sword of Damocles over the economic stability of the Middle East, endangering nations like Russia and China that rely on stable energy prices,” he added, referencing two opponents of prolonging the embargo.

Pompeo described Iran as “the world’s most heinous terrorist regime,” and urged the UNSC to reject “extortion diplomacy.”

If the US is unsuccessful in extending the arms embargo, it has threatened to trigger a return of all UN sanctions on Iran under the nuclear deal, from which Washington unilaterally withdrew in 2018.

Zarif countered calling President Donald Trump’s administration “an outlaw bully” that is waging “economic terrorism” on his country to satisfy domestic constituencies and “personal aggrandizement.”

He called for the US to compensate the Iranian people for the damage and vehemently opposed any extension of the arms embargo, warning that Iran’s options “will be firm” if it is maintained and the US will bear full responsibility.

Pompeo’s threat to trigger a new set of sanctions was met with criticism during the meeting by other members who signalled their opposition to the move, while also stressing the importance of respecting the deal.

While Russian diplomat Vassily Nebenzia denounced the US’s attempt to extend the embargo as a “utopia”, China’s UN ambassador, Zhang Jun, stressed that the five-year arms embargo should end as scheduled under the 2015 resolution.

“Having quit the JCPOA, the US is no longer a participant and has no right to trigger snapback at the Security Council,” Zhang said, using the official name of the deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

European allies of the US have voiced support for extending the embargo but also oppose new sanctions, saying the bigger issue is Iran’s nuclear programme.

“Unilateral attempts to trigger UN sanctions snapback are incompatible with our current efforts to preserve the JCPOA,” said the British envoy, Jonathan Allen, referring to the nuclear agreement.

Olof Skoog, the European Union representative to the UN, noted that the US has not participated in any meetings on the nuclear deal since announcing its withdrawal in May 2018.

The UNSC was meeting to discuss a report by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who said the cruise missiles used in several attacks on oil facilities and an international airport in Saudi Arabia last year were of “Iranian origin”.

Guterres said “these items may have been transferred in a manner inconsistent” with a 2015 Security Council resolution that enshrines Tehran’s deal with world powers to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.

Iran rejected the report saying it had been drawn up under US and Saudi influence.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies