Russia Rejects Germany’s JCPOA plus offer

December 29, 2020 - 21:19

TEHRAN – Russia has rejected a German offer to substitute the 2015 Iran nuclear deal with a new deal, calling such a deal “wrong and inconvenient.”

Sergey Ryabkov, deputy foreign minister of Russia, said Russia has proposed a gradual process to revive the Iran nuclear deal - officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – instead of putting forward ideas such as JCPOA + which will make things worse.

“Gradual steps & reciprocity, proposed by Russia FM Lavrov back in the days, were key principles of JCPOA elaboration. Adding something extra to the existing Nuclear Deal now will make things worse. So we think putting forward ideas like ‘JCPOA+’ is wrong & inconvenient,” Raybkov said, according to a tweet published by the Permanent Mission of Russia to the International Organizations in Vienna.

The Russian diplomat was responding to recent remarks by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas who had recently said that the JCPOA is no longer enough and that there is a need to reach what he called a “nuclear agreement plus”.

“A return to the previous agreement will not suffice anyway. There will have to be a kind of ‘nuclear agreement plus,’ which is also in our interest. We have clear expectations of Iran: no nuclear weapons, but also no ballistic missile program that threatens the entire region. Iran also needs to play a different role in the region,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a recent interview with the German magazine, Der Spiegel. He added, “We need this agreement precisely because we distrust Iran. I have already coordinated with my French and British counterparts on this.”

But Russia said that there is no need to expand the JCPOA in order to address other issues such as Iran’s missile program and its regional influence because there are plenty of formats to do so. Ryabkov alluded to at least four such formats.

“There are separate formats for JCPOA-unrelated issues: security concept for the Persian Gulf by Russia; multilateral dialogue platform by China; HOPE Initiative by Iran; dialogue between European External Actions Service. Iran & others. But the key task - to restore JCPOA as it is,” the Russia deputy foreign minister said.

These formats were all presented to help de-escalate tensions in the region. Russia presented its “concept of collective security” to the United Nations on July 23, 2019. Russia presented its initiative to the UN as tensions soared in the region following the unilateral withdrawal of U.S. President Donald Trump from the Iran nuclear deal. At that time, the Russian initiative was distributed as an official document approved by the United Nations. Russia’s state news agency TASS published some of the initiative’s contents shortly after it was distributed in the UN.

“Practical work on launching the process of creating a security system in the Persian Gulf may be started by holding bilateral and multilateral consultations between interested parties, including countries both within the region and outside of it, UN Security Council, LAS [League of Arab States], OIC [Organization of Islamic Cooperation], GCC [Persian Gulf Cooperation Council],” the Russian document said.

Russia has once again offered this initiative in recent weeks.

China also presented a similar initiative to soothe tensions. The Chinese initiative was first presented during a visit by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to China in October. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said at the time that Beijing proposed to “build a regional multilateral dialogue platform with equal participation of all stakeholders.” The platform, China said, would enhance mutual understanding through dialogue and explore political and diplomatic solutions to security issues in the region.

China once again presented its initiative during the recent JCPOA ministerial virtual meeting on December 21. The foreign ministers of Iran, China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom, as well as the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, attended the meeting during which Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi offered to start a new process to resolve regional security issues.

Wang Yi made a 4-point proposal: 1. Make relentless efforts to uphold the JCPOA and firmly against the maximum pressure. 2. Push for an early and unconditional U.S. return to the JCPOA. The U.S. should lift sanctions on Iran and on third-party entities and individuals. 3. Resolve the compliance issues fairly and impartially. 4. Properly handle regional security issues. China has proposed to establish a multilateral dialogue platform in the [Persian] Gulf region to start an inclusive dialogue process to build consensus on regional security issues through equal consultation and incremental progress, Hua Chunying, the spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said in a Twitter thread following the ministerial meeting.

The European signatories to the JCPOA – France, Germany and the UK (E3) – agreed to drop their preconditions during the meeting, according to Abolfazl Amouei, the spokesman for the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee. The spokesman said that Western countries have reconsidered issues such as extending the JCPOA’s sunset clauses and regional issues, which means the Europeans have effectively abandoned their push to reach a nuclear agreement plus.

This change in European behavior has happened only after the Iranian Parliament passed a law that if implemented, would substantially increase Iran’s nuclear activities.

According to Amouei, nuclear law has forced the Europeans to abandon their push to expand the JCPOA – at least for now.

The Guardian reported that the Europeans have agreed not to set fresh preconditions on a revival of the nuclear deal, believing Tehran and Washington should be able to come back into full compliance with the agreement without at this stage needing to accept to extend or strengthen it.

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