Why E3 keeps silent on UN arms embargo on Iran

August 2, 2020 - 17:58

TEHRAN - While the dispute over the UN arms embargo on Iran looms large on the horizon, the European signatories to the Iran nuclear deal –France, Germany and the UK (E3) – continue to refuse to take a clear stance on the UN arms embargo, which put them in a dilemma that they want to avoid, an analyst tells the Tehran Times.

The E3 and the U.S. increasingly hold talks on Iran in a bid to settle their differences over a range of issues that have shaken the transatlantic alliance over the past few years. The UN arms embargo on Iran is one of these issues on which U.S. officials seek to reach an agreement with the Europeans.

To this end, U.S. Special Representative for Iran and Senior Advisor to Secretary Brian Hook traveled to Estonia and the United Kingdom on July 28-29 for consultations with the U.S. European allies. Before the trip, the U.S. Department of State said in a statement that Hook was going to visit the UK after his visits to Tunisia, Kuwait, and Qatar, but it stopped short of saying what issues he would discuss in London.

The UK Foreign Office also refused to give details about Hook’s trip. It’s not clear yet how many UK officials and whom the American official met in London.

Robert Wood Johnson, the U.S. ambassador to the UK, said in a tweet on July 29 that Hook was in London to hold talks about the UN arms embargo on Iran.

“Special Representative Brian Hook in London to discuss why failure to extend the UN arms embargo on Iran would make the world more dangerous,” Johnson tweeted.

Earlier on July 27, the State Department said in a statement that the main goal of Hook’s visits to Tunisia, Qatar, and Kuwait was “to discuss extending the UN arms embargo on Iran, which is scheduled to expire on October 18, 2020.”

The Guardian newspaper confirmed that Hook “was in London on Wednesday to meet Foreign Office officials as part of his attempt to drum up support for the U.S. policy of extending the arms embargo,” suggesting that the Europeans have offered a compromise to extend the EU arms embargo on Iran.

“Hook ruled out an EU offer to extend its own arms embargo as sufficient since the EU embargo would still allow Iran to purchase arms outside the EU and the U.S. The E3’s arms embargo does not expire until 2023,” the newspaper said.

It also quoted Hook as saying, “It’s great that Europe has these sanctions in place, but what we need is a global embargo, and if you do not have a global embargo it allows Iran to purchase these weapons.”

Hook’s visit to London made it clear that the Europeans are making consultations with the U.S. officials before taking stance on the UN arms embargo. They also seem to be holding talks among themselves to decide how to proceed with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and the UN arms embargo.

Two days before hook’s visit, UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab held a telephone conversation with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian on Iran.

“The UK and France continue to work together to support global stability and security. Good discussions with French FM Jean-Yves Le Drian today in issues of shared importance, including Iran and joint efforts to deter annexation and to facilitate dialogue between the parties to the MEPP,” tweeted Raab on July 27.

The European parties to the Iran nuclear deal have increased their contacts to address what they call “major implications” of the planned lifting of the UN arms embargo. They are yet to take a clear stance on the UN arms embargo, but they have implied on many occasions that they share some concerns with the U.S. over the arms embargo issue.

"The E3 remains committed to fully implementing Resolution 2231 by which the JCPOA was endorsed in 2015. However, we believe that the planned lifting of the UN conventional arms embargo established by resolution 2231 next October would have major implications for regional security and stability," the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and the UK said in a joint statement on June 19, shortly after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors adopted an anti-Iran resolution on the same day.

With respect to the UN arms embargo and the JCPOA, some analysts believe that the European signatories to the Iran nuclear deal are facing unfavorable options.

“The EU is facing a dilemma. On one hand, it seeks to maintain its independence against the U.S. And on the other hand, it’s trying to find a middle ground on the UN arms embargo,” Ali Bigdelli, an EU expert, told the Tehran Times, adding that the E3 stance on the UN arms embargo depends on the Iranian positions in this regard.

According to Bigdeli, the E3 cannot ignore the fact that the UN Security Council Resolution 2231 stipulates that the UN arms on Iran must be lifted by October, and thus they offered to extend the EU arms embargo on Iran rather than the UN arms embargo. The expert also said that the Europeans want to save the nuclear deal.

They haven’t publicly discussed any offer yet. But pundits believe that the European parties to the Iran nuclear deal could soon be forced to clearly announce their positions on the UN arms embargo, given that they are running out of time. October will soon arrive and that the Europeans will have to make a fateful decision on the UN arms embargo and the JCPOA.

The Guardian suggested that the Europeans hope that a possible Joe Biden’s win in the November election would lead to the U.S. rejoining the JCPOA.

“The three European signatories to the nuclear deal – Germany, France, and the UK – are caught in a vice in that they do not wish to see the resumption of conventional arms sales to Tehran, but unlike the U.S., they do want to keep the 2015 nuclear deal alive. The Europeans are especially conscious of the fact that a Democratic win in November’s election would probably lead to the U.S. rejoining the deal, and more positive relations between Tehran and the West,” the Guardian said.

To the Europeans’ consternation, the UN arms embargo on Iran is scheduled to expire before the U.S. presidential election. Therefore, the Europeans need to make a decision on the UN arms embargo before the Americans go to the polls.  


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