Iran and U.S. Spar at U.N.

With the failure of U.S.-Iran nuclear talks in Qatar, envoys from Washington and Tehran traded accusations at the United Nations. Iran “continued to make demands that go well beyond” the 2015 nuclear deal, Ambassador Richard Mills, said at a Security Council meeting on the implementation of Resolution 2231, which enshrined the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). 

Britain’s U.N. representative warned that Iran could have enough highly enriched uranium for “several nuclear devices” by the end of the year. “Iran’s nuclear programme has never been more advanced than it is today.” 

Iran’s envoy, Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi, claimed that the “unrealistic and rigid approach” by the United States had led to the stalemate. But he implied that diplomacy was not dead. “As in the past, we will be in touch with the EU Coordinator for the next stage of the talks.” Takht Ravanchi also blamed the United States for regional instability. “The massive U.S. military build-up and export of sophisticated weaponry to the region, as well as certain European countries' supply of lethal weapons to regional countries, have transformed this region into the world's biggest concentration of foreign military installations, making it a ticking time bomb.”

The talks in Doha, from June 28 to 29, were resumed after emergency intervention by E.U foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell, who had traveled to Iran and won agreement for the Qatar meeting. The talks followed a three-month pause in diplomacy between Iran and the world’s six major powers—Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States—held in Vienna. The following are excerpted remarks by envoys from the world powers and Iran on Resolution 2231. 


The United States

Remarks by Ambassador Richard Mills:

“The United States remains committed to a mutual return to full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the JCPOA. We have been prepared for months to conclude a deal based on the understandings negotiated in Vienna. Such a deal has been available since March, but we can only conclude a deal, and implement it, if Iran drops its additional demands that are outside the scope of the JCPOA.”

“Iran has yet to demonstrate any real urgency to conclude a deal, end the current nuclear crisis, and achieve important sanctions lifting.

“We remain concerned by steps Iran has taken recently that undermine the International Atomic Energy Agency’s verification and monitoring of JCPOA commitments, including the removal of JCPOA-related cameras and monitoring equipment. Such steps make a mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA more difficult.

“It is also important that Member States continue to fully implement the relevant measures in Annex B of UN Security Council Resolution 2231. For instance, restrictions remain in place on transfers to and from Iran of certain ballistic missile- and nuclear-related items and technology, and individuals and entities on the 2231 list remain subject to an asset freeze.

“We appreciate the Secretariat’s continued reporting on the implementation of these measures. The report’s findings that ballistic missiles and cruise missiles launched at Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, or their component parts, are of Iranian origin underscores the destabilizing nature of Iran’s continued development and proliferation of missile technology. Furthermore, the Secretary-General’s report finds that UAVs used in attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE contained components that the Secretariat previously assessed to be of Iranian origin.

“Launches of space launch vehicles on December 30 and March 8 relied on technology virtually identical to, and interchangeable with, those used in ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

“Iran’s determination to continue to engage in such activities is evident in its announcement on June 26 that it conducted a launch of its Zuljanah Space launch vehicle. Launches using such technology are the exact type of activity that the Security Council clearly called upon Iran not to undertake in Annex B of Resolution 2231.

“The Security Council must be clear and united in condemning this activity. When Iran defies the Security Council repeatedly – without consequence – it undermines the fundamental credibility of this Council.

“In the meantime, Mr. President, the United States remains ready for a mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA, which we are confident would significantly advance international security. The ball is in Iran’s court and the choice to move back towards full implementation of the JCPOA rests with Iran.”



Remarks by Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi:

“We believe that JCPOA is a hard-won multilateral diplomatic achievement that remains the best option with no alternatives.”

“While the former U.S. administration recklessly sacrificed a well-established tenet of international law and withdrew from the deal and re-imposed sanctions, the present administration is following in its predecessor’s footsteps as it continues to adopt the notorious maximum pressure policy and impose sanctions on Iran. There is no doubt that such a policy is advanced as a leverage in the negotiations.”

“Iran has demanded verifiable and objective guarantees from the U.S. that JCPOA will not be torpedoed again, that the U.S. will not violate its obligations again, and that sanctions will not be re-imposed under other pretexts or designations - as occurred during the previous U.S. administration - and that JCPOA mechanisms will not be abused. In fact, these are the minimum requirements for determining the deal's long-term viability.”

“During our intensive consultations with the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Mr. Joseph Borrell, in Tehran last week, Iran once more emphasized its willingness to provide creative solutions to the remaining issues in the hope of ending the deadlock. We agreed to hold indirect talks with the U.S. through the EU in order to overcome the last hurdles in the talks. We were sincere in the Doha talks that were serious and positive. As in the past, we will be in touch with the EU Coordinator for the next stage of the talks.

“Our negotiating team is ready to engage constructively again to conclude and reach a deal. The ball is in US’s court and if the U.S. acts realistically and shows its serious intention to implement its obligations, the agreement is not out of reach.”

“Our space and missile programs, fall outside the purview or competence of the Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) and its annexes and are not subject for negotiations.

“The massive U.S. military build-up and export of sophisticated weaponry to the region, as well as certain European countries' supply of lethal weapons to regional countries, have transformed this region into the world's biggest concentration of foreign military installations, making it a ticking time bomb.

“Another key source of regional insecurity is the Israeli regime's destabilizing, malicious, and terrorist activities in the region, which have always been accompanied by persistent U.S. support.”


United Kingdom

Remarks by Ambassador Barbara Woodward:

“It is important that we are clear: Iran’s nuclear programme has never been more advanced than it is today and Iran’s nuclear escalation is a threat to international peace and security.

“Iran has continued to improve its enrichment capabilities through developing, installing and using new advanced centrifuges; it has continued its rapid accumulation of uranium enriched up to 20% and highly enriched uranium up to 60%; and has continued to curtail IAEA monitoring, most recently switching off twenty-seven monitoring cameras from 8 June. Iran has also been producing uranium metal, which provides weapons-applicable knowledge.

“At the current enrichment rate, by the end of this year, Iran is likely to have enough enriched material to rapidly produce HEU at 90% enrichment for several nuclear devices. Iran also continues to develop ballistic missiles in a way that is inconsistent with Annex B of resolution 2231.

“Iran’s nuclear escalation is undermining international peace and security and the global non-proliferation system and is in clear violation of resolution 2231.

“President, there has been a deal on the table since March, following a year of intensive negotiations. At that point, there was a viable deal, which would return Iran to compliance with its commitments and the US to the deal - reversing Iran’s nuclear escalation and lifting US sanctions related to the JCPoA.

“However, Iran is refusing to take the opportunity, while making demands beyond the scope of the JCPoA. Iran should urgently take this deal. There will not be a better one and if a deal is not struck then Iran’s nuclear escalation will cause the JCPoA to collapse. In that scenario, it will be incumbent on this Council to take decisive steps to ensure Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon.”



Remarks by Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere:

“France and its British and German partners remain committed to ensuring the earliest possible return to full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and resolution 2231. We support the efforts of the JCPoA Coordinator in this direction. It is more urgent than ever to conclude the agreement, while it is still possible, as the window of opportunity is closing.

“It is urgent because Iran’s violations of the nuclear provisions of Resolution 2231 have accelerated. As a result of Iran’s activities in violation of the JCPOA for more than three years, including during the Vienna talks for the most problematic of them, Iran’s nuclear programme is now more advanced than it has ever been in the past.

“Tehran has accelerated the development of its activities, without any credible civilian justification, including the accelerated accumulation of uranium enriched to 20% and up to 60%. Last year, it undertook uranium metal activities, which are not only prohibited by the JCPOA, but are also highly sensitive from a nuclear proliferation point of view because of the knowledge and know-how that they enable Iran to acquire and which are useful for the production of a nuclear weapon. In recent days, Iran has begun installing new, more efficient advanced centrifuge cascades. The more Iran accumulates knowledge, with irreversible consequences, the more difficult it will be to return to the JCPoA, which was designed according to different technical parameters, corresponding to Iran’s state of knowledge in 2015. We call on Iran to stop this spiral that will eventually prevent the agreement from being concluded.

“At the same time, Iran’s lack of cooperation with the IAEA is becoming ever more serious and worrying. The Agency is making it clear that it will very soon be irreversibly unable to restore the continuity of its knowledge of the Iranian programme. It is of great concern that this Council has given the IAEA a mandate, through Resolution 2231, which Iran’s decisions no longer allow it to exercise in full. This is indeed a matter for the Security Council.

“The situation is equally worrying with regard to Iran’s other activities covered by Security Council resolution 2231. Iran continues to pursue its ballistic missile activities at a very high pace. We reiterate our full support for the Secretary-General’s efforts to investigate possible transfers of such technology in the region. These activities place Iran in a position to threaten international security. They have all the more reason to be followed closely by this Council as they occur in a context where the IAEA - due to Iran’s activities - is no longer able to assure the international community of the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.

“The solution must be respect for international law, dialogue and de-escalation. We continue to hope that Iran will engage in such a process. But we are increasingly concerned that Iran has failed to seize the opportunity created by Josep Borrell’s visit to Tehran and the indirect talks with the United States that ended yesterday in Doha. We understand that not only has Iran failed to seize the offer on the table, but it has added yet more issues outside the JCPOA, with maximalist and unrealistic demands. We remain convinced that an effective return to full implementation of the JCPoA has the potential to contribute positively to regional prosperity and security, and we will spare no effort to achieve this - but we will not succeed if Iran continues to refuse this path.”



Remarks by Ambassador Thomas Zahneisen:

“We also welcome the support expressed by the Secretary General for the JCPoA and share his assessment that it still is the best possible instrument to ensure the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program and that its restoration would therefore contribute to peace and stability in the region and beyond.

“We also concur with USG Di Carlo’s analysis that we are now at a critical junction. Despite our strong belief that restoring the JCPoA is both urgently required and possible, prospects unfortunately have become very tenuous at this point. This is all the more regrettable since a viable deal to restore the JCPoA has been on the table since the beginning of March. It is the result of months of intense negotiations and would return Iran to compliance with its JCPoA commitments and the USA to the deal.

“We have been ready to conclude the Vienna agreement since the beginning of March – and we still are. It is a fair and comprehensive package. Since time for its conclusion is rapidly diminishing, we welcome the recent good offices of the EU High Representative. The proximity talks between the USA and Iran in Doha during the last days would have provided yet another chance for Iran to agree to the deal. Unfortunately, also in Doha, Iran has not seized the occasion for compliance with the JCPoA in return for sanctions relief, but has instead insisted once again on demands that go well beyond the scope of the JCPoA.”

“Iran’s worrisome nuclear escalation includes the extensive use of advanced centrifuges for industrial purposes on nuclear enrichment way beyond JCPoA limits. We are equally gravely concerned that Iran has continued to curtail the verification and monitoring activities of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).”

“On Annex B of the resolution, let me reiterate our well-known position: we continue to consider Iran’s development of ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology, as inconsistent with paragraph 3 of Annex B to Security Council resolution 2231.”



Remarks by Chargé d'Affaires of the Russian Federation Dmitry Polyanskiy:

“Back in the day, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was endorsed thanks to professional diplomacy, that i.a. envisages readiness to account for each other’s interests and demonstrate reasonable flexibility in order to reach a compromise. It marked a key achievement of modern multilateral diplomacy. The importance of the deal for the region and the whole world can hardly be overestimated. It signified that despite some fundamental difference in positions, the sides were still able to strike an agreement.

“Unfortunately, this precious balance was disrupted in 2018, when the United States withdrew from the deal unilaterally and then took multiple steps to shatter the JCPOA and bar other parties from upholding it to fullest extent. First of all, I mean the illegitimate unilateral sanctions, both direct and indirect, that the United States imposed. Let me underscore that the policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran that the United States has not dropped until this day, is the root cause of all current trouble around the JCPOA. All Iran’s steps that followed were but a reaction to the US destructive stance rather than Tehran’s arbitrary deviation from its obligations. We assume that some progressive steps of the United States towards resuming its full compliance with relevant JCPOA obligations may encourage Iran to move forward with some of the obligations that were previously put on hold.

“We regret that the SG report fails to articulate this cause-and-effect nexus clearly, and not for the first time already. Besides, the report puts “on equal footing” calls to the US to lift restrictions and calls to decide on the exemptions. When we speak of recovering the JCPOA, it is not about exemptions, but about full, constant, and verifiable cancellation of the illegitimate discriminatory measures that the United States imposed on Iran in violation of UNSC resolution 2231.

“Russia, like a number of other states, voted against the resolution of the Board of Governors that a group of Western states initiated at the beginning of June. We believe this initiative untimely, politicized, and contradicting the efforts made at the negotiations track with a view to recover the JCPOA. All issues that it touches upon have a retrospective character and pose no proliferation-related risks. I remind that since 2015, Iran has remained the most verifiable of all IAEA members.

“We remain gravely concerned over the illegitimate practice of the UN Secretariat to carry out some “investigations” as part of resolution 2231. We strongly oppose such activities by the Secretariat. In the context of resolution 2231, the Secretariat’s mandate is purely technical and administrative, which is stipulated in UNSC President’s Note S/2016/44 dated 16 January 2016. The Secretariat is not authorized to file any information requests with member states or react to such requests, to say nothing of organizing “inspections on the ground”. Team 2231 is not a sanctions committee and therefore does not hold relevant expertise. We proceed from the understanding that an SG report should not contain conclusions based on hearsay coming from the Secretariat staff or information from unidentified or unverified sources.

“We repeatedly pointed out that Iran strictly observes all ‘missile provisions’ of resolution 2231. By this point, the Council has not received any credible proof of the opposite. We regret that some states keep making unsubstantiated allegations against Tehran’s missile program while using the same logic that we have repeatedly refuted.”

“Now we are amidst a very important and responsible, yet fragile stage. Attempts to build up pressure on Iran and spiral up tension around the JCPOA can derail all prospects for recovery of the deal. We call on the sides to act in a strategically reserved manner, adopt a pragmatic stance and commitment to compromise. In this case, mutually acceptable solutions will definitely be found.”



Remarks by Ambassador Zhang Jun:

“Since last year, positive progress has been made in the negotiations to resume compliance with the JCPOA. The negotiations are now in the final stage. We welcome the relaunch of indirect talks between the US and Iran in Doha. We also hope that all parties concerned will, driven by a greater sense of urgency, agree on the remaining outstanding issues without delay, so as to remove any obstacles that stand in the way of restoring the agreement’s integrity, and ensuring its effective implementation. 

“The future of the Iranian nuclear issue is critical to the international nuclear non-proliferation regime, regional stability, and international peace and security. To keep the resumed Iranian nuclear talks on the right track with a view to an early and positive outcome, China wishes to underscore the following points. 

“First, adhering to the overarching goal of a political solution. Upholding and effectively implementing the agreement is about maintaining multilateralism and the authority of the Security Council, and safeguarding the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. There is no better alternative to the agreement, as dialogue and consultation is the only right way forward in the resolution of the Iranian nuclear crisis.”

“Second, going by the correct logic of right and wrong. The previous US administration, in disregard of objections from the international community, unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA, and launched a maximum pressure campaign against Iran. We must admit that is the root cause of the current Iranian nuclear crisis. As the one responsible for the Iranian nuclear crisis, the United States should face up to its responsibility, correct its mistake once and for all, make a political decision as soon as possible, and take concrete measures to respond positively to the reasonable demands of Iran. While repeatedly stating its readiness to seek a return to compliance, the United States is nevertheless escalating sanctions against Iran and third parties even during the process of resumed talks. Doing so is obviously detrimental to any positive progress in the talks. The US should live up to its words and lift all relevant unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction measures against Iran, so that Iran can fully partake of the economic dividends of the JCPOA. 

“Third, eliminating interference in the negotiation process. All parties have dedicated a tremendous amount of energy and effort into the negotiations on the return to compliance. There is only one last mile to go before the negotiations are concluded. As we approach the final hurdle, it is all the more important for all parties to firm up confidence, reject any and all interference, and preserve the hard-won results of the negotiations achieved to date. In this context, all parties should be guided by reason, exercise restraint, and refrain from taking unconstructive steps that would cause a spiraling of tensions. China objects politicizing the mandate of IAEA, as reflected in the Iran-related resolution recently forced through by some countries and adopted by the Agency’s Board of Governors. We support settling outstanding issues through dialogue and cooperation between the Agency and Iran. 

“As a member of the international community, Iran has every right to the peaceful uses of outer space. We all have different interpretations of the nature of Iran’s missile and space programs. We hope the parties concerned will accurately interpret the provisions of the Security Council resolutions on the issue of Iran’s missile launch, and avoid undermining the bigger picture of the JCPOA implementation.”