Iran, France presidents hold telephone conversation on nuclear deal

March 3, 2021 - 19:11

TEHRAN – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke by phone with his French counterpart Emanuel Macron late on Tuesday to discuss a range of issues including the situation around the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Rouhani warned that any unconstructive move by the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors would further complicate the situation and endanger the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Rouhani emphasized that missing the opportunities to maintain and revive the JCPOA could make the situation more difficult, according to a statement issued by the Iranian presidency, adding, “The stepwise reduction of commitments on the part of Iran was due to the withdrawal of the United States from the deal and the inability of the three European countries to fulfill their obligations, which can be returned immediately after the fulfillment of the obligations of the other parties.”

‘We have not withdrawn from the JCPOA in any way’

The Iranian president described the cancellation of the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol by Iran as within the framework of the law approved by the parliament and added, “Our cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency continues and we have not withdrawn from the JCPOA in any way.”

The president warned that “any unconstructive action or position in the Board of Governors could lead to new challenges and complicate the current situation.”

Rouhani described France as an important actor, underlining, “Tehran-Paris relations can be developed based on a sustainable vision and with long-term goals for joint bilateral, regional and global cooperation.”

The Iranian president also touched on the coronavirus pandemic and how the U.S. sanctions on Iran impacted Iran’s effort to fight the pandemic.

Underlining that effective confrontation with coronavirus requires the cooperation of all countries in the world, Rouhani noted, “The United States' cruel, illegal sanctions have made it more difficult for Iran to deal with this disease and made it difficult for the Islamic Republic to access its financial resources, even for the supply of medicine and medical equipment, and the European Union, especially France, is expected not to remain silent regarding this inhumane act.”

‘Europe is ready to be more active in the coming weeks to revive the JCPOA’

President Macron, for his part, called the preservation of the JCPOA a necessity for the international community and stressed the need for the continuation of the talks in order for all parties to return to the full implementation of their commitments.

Underscoring the need for the two sides to take the initial steps, the French president said, “Europe is ready to be more active in the coming weeks to revive the JCPOA.”

 ‘Deep concern’

Following the conversation, the Elysee palace issued a separate statement detailing the exchange of views between Rouhani and Macron.

According to the French statement, Macron recalled the support given by the Europeans to Iran in the face of the pandemic and proposed to strengthen cooperation to meet Iran’s vaccination needs, through the COVAX mechanism.

Macron also expressed “deep concern” over Iran’s nuclear activities which he described as a violation of the nuclear deal, stressing the need for Iran to “return” to compliance with the JCPOA and full cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog.

“Having reminded (Rouhani) of the efforts made by France with its partners in the last years to reach a negotiated solution, the (French) head of state stressed it was important that Iran made clear and immediate gestures so that dialogue can resume with all parties to the Vienna deal,” the statement continued. 

The Elysee palace also said that Macron discussed regional issues with Rouhani.

The telephone conversation come against a backdrop of heightened tensions between Iran and the West over a U.S.-led plan to adopt a resolution against Iran at the IAEA’s board.

Bloomberg reported on Thursday that U.S. diplomats circulated a document on Thursday which lists Washington’s grievances and orders Iran to fully cooperate with inspectors. The proposed resolution would “underscore strong concern at the IAEA’s findings” and “express the board’s deepening concern with respect to Iran’s cooperation,” Bloomberg said, adding that this resolution would suggest that Iran could be providing incomplete information on its nuclear activities, something that has potentially serious consequences, including another referral to the United Nations Security Council.

The three European signatories to the JCPOA – France, Germany and the UK (E3) – are expected to support the resolution despite Iranian and Russian warnings.

French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian said on Tuesday that France and its Western allies plan to lodge a protest with the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog to criticize Iran’s decision to curb cooperation with the agency, according to a Reuters report.

“The nuclear tensions will lead us in the coming days to put forward a protest in the framework of the IAEA Board of Governors to regret this decision,” the chief French diplomat told a parliamentary hearing.

Reuters also reported that the E3 on Monday circulated a draft resolution backed by the United States for the Vienna meeting voicing “serious concern” at Iran’s reduced cooperation and urging Iran to reverse its steps.

“The situation is complicated,” Le Drian noted. “The problem is to know who goes first and nobody wants to be trapped. The fact that the Iranians suspended the Additional Protocol is not good news,” he said, referring to Iran’s move last month to curb IAEA inspections.

Iran has made it clear that it will not let the adoption of the resolution go unanswered. Several Iranian officials have warned the UN nuclear watchdog as well as the West against adopting a resolution against Iran.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has warned that any hostile move by the IAEA board against the Islamic Republic would further complicate the situation around the 2015 nuclear deal.

He described the European push to adopt the resolution as a wrong move that will only complicate things.

“The Europeans have started a wrong move in support of the U.S. at the (IAEA) Board of Governors,” Zarif told reporters, adding that the Western countries’ measure could further complicate the situation, according to Fars News.

According to Zarif, Iran has already informed the IAEA board of the potential consequences of the Westerners’ move.

“We have provided the necessary explanations about the current situation to all members of the Board of Governors,” Zarif said, warning, “We hope that reason will prevail, otherwise we have our own solutions.”

Earlier on Sunday, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) director Ali Akbar Salehi also had warned the IAEA board against adopting a resolution against Iran, saying that such a move would prompt Iran to reciprocate. 

“In case the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency adopts an anti-Iran resolution due to the suspension of the Additional Protocol, we will give a proper response,” Salehi said. 

Salehi pointed to the recent deal between Iran and the IAEA on how to continue cooperation in light of Iran’s decision to implement a parliamentary nuclear law obligating the Iranian government to cease the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The nuclear law, officially called “Strategic Action to Lift Sanctions and Protect the Nation’s Rights,” stipulates that if the remaining parties to the JCPOA – Germany, France, China, Russia and the UK- failed to facilitate Iran’s oil exports and the return of Iranian oil revenues in two months, the Iranian government would be obligated to stop inspections beyond the IAEA safeguards, including the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol, which allows unannounced and intensive inspections of nuclear sites.

Iran reached an understanding with IAEA chief Rafael Grossi a few days before the implementation of the nuclear law. Under the deal, the IAEA is allowed to carry out necessary inspections and verifications for a period of three months. After that, the continuation of the inspections would be contingent on the West lifting sanctions and returning to commitments under the JCPOA. 

However, the Biden administration and its allies do not seem to be in the mood of lifting the sanctions anytime soon. They keep calling on Iran to fully implement the deal while they refuse to ease sanctions. The Biden administration has even hired a sanctions expert called Richard Nephew in the latest sign that the U.S. may not lift sanctions soon.

SM/PA
 

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