China urges U.S. to lift ‘illegal’ sanctions on Iran

July 16, 2021 - 21:50

TEHRAN – Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian has praised the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, calling on the United States to show “sincerity” and completely lift its “illegal” sanctions on Iran. 

Speaking at a regular press conference on Thursday, the Chinese spokesperson reflected on the Iran deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), calling it a result of more than a decade of painstaking negotiations. 

“July 14 marks the sixth anniversary of the JCPOA on the Iranian nuclear issue. The JCPOA, the result of 13 years of painstaking negotiations, is an important outcome of multilateral diplomacy endorsed by the UN Security Council Resolution 2231,” Lijian said, adding, “It is a classic example of resolving disputes through dialogue and consultation, and a key pillar for upholding the international non-proliferation regime and promoting peace and stability in the Middle East. Joint efforts to safeguard and implement the JCPOA serve the common interests of the international community.”

He then articulated China’s position on what Iran and the U.S. should do to revive the tattered deal. “China always believes that the full and effective implementation of the deal is the only effective way to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue. China welcomes the fact that the U.S. seeks to return to the JCPOA. In the meantime, the U.S. side needs to show sincerity by taking concrete actions to regain the trust of the international community. Negotiations on resuming the compliance of the deal have entered the final stage,” the spokesperson said, noting, “All parties have shown their political will to reach an agreement, but there are still some differences that need to be bridged. The U.S. should make an early decision to comprehensively and completely lift its illegal unilateral sanctions against Iran and third parties, while Iran should fully resume its compliance on this basis.”

Lijian pointed out that China remains committed to preserving the effectiveness of the 2015 nuclear deal, underlining that Beijing plays a constructive role in the current negotiations between Iran and the remaining parties to the JCPOA as well as the U.S. 

He stated, “As an important party to the JCPOA, China is firmly committed to upholding the authority and effectiveness of the JCPOA and the Security Council resolution, and taking a constructive part in the negotiations between the U.S. and Iran to resume compliance. We will work on all parties to build consensus, bridge differences and bring the JCPOA back on the right track at an early date. No matter how the situation may change, China will always stand on the right side of history, uphold justice, advance the political settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue through diplomatic means, and safeguard the international non-proliferation regime and peace and stability in the Middle East. In the meantime, we will firmly safeguard our legitimate rights and interests.”

China has increased its calls on the U.S. to return to the JCPOA in recent weeks as the Vienna nuclear talks, underway since April, started to stumble after the sixth round, which was concluded in June. In early July, President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping called on JCPOA parties to the window of opportunity for an agreement on the JCPOA. Earlier, China’s foreign minister had underlined the need for the United States to make an earlier decision to return to the nuclear deal. Wang Yi said it is most critical for the U.S. to make an earlier decision to rejoin the agreement.

Wang was speaking at the World Peace Forum organized by Tsinghua University and the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs, a government-run policy group.

The top Chinese diplomat described the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA as the root cause for the current situation around the tattered pact.

“The U.S. unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA and its maximum pressure on Iran are the root causes of the current Iranian nuclear crisis,” said Wang. “As the saying goes, he who tied the bow should untie it.”

Former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018 and imposed sweeping economic sanctions on Iran. Trump piled up sanctions on Iran in a bid to force Iran into making more concessions to the U.S. within the framework of a new nuclear deal. Trump, however, failed to get his deal, bequeathing his successor a litany of unresolved issues with Iran. The Biden administration has said it wants to open a new chapter with Iran and change tack, though it is yet to make any move to break with the Trump legacy on Iran.

Since April, diplomats from the remaining parties to the JCPOA and the U.S. have held six rounds of talks in a bid to revive the deal. They made significant progress but failed to get Iran and the U.S. back to full compliance with the nuclear deal.

After the sixth round, Iran and the U.S. called on each other to make tough decisions to break the deadlock over the deal. 

Ever since the end of the sixth round of the Vienna nuclear talks more than two weeks ago, the U.S. and its European allies, namely France, Germany and the UK - collectively known as the E3 – have been urging Iran to make “tough decisions” to revive the JCPOA, as if it was Iran that pulled out of the deal in the first place. 

The U.S. envoy to the Vienna talks went so far as to threaten to walk out of the talks if Iran insisted on its rights under the nuclear deal. “We wouldn't be going back to Vienna if we thought that it's not possible to reach a deal. I don't think that this window is going to be open forever. At some point, we'll have to conclude that this is not succeeding. But we're not there yet,” Rob Malley told NPR in a recent interview. 

He also made it clear that the Biden administration wouldn’t lift all the sanctions imposed by its predecessor. “We're not going to lift all of the sanctions that the Trump administration imposed,” Malley asserted.

The U.S. and French foreign ministers have called on Iran to make “tough decisions” to revive the deal. U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken hinted at a U.S. withdrawal from talks with Iran if Tehran continued to increase its nuclear activities.

Iran responded by saying that if a party is to make tough decisions it is the United States and its European allies, not Iran. Because Iran had already made tough decisions after the U.S. unilateral decision to withdraw from the JCPOA in May 2018.

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Seyed Abbas Araqchi, has said Iran had already made tough decisions to preserve the deal and now it’s the U.S.’s turn to make such decisions. 

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has already made tough decisions. When the United States withdrew from the JCPOA and Iran decided to stay in the JCPOA. It was Iran's big and difficult decision that led to the preservation of the JCPOA so far. Now it is the turn of the opposing parties, and according to the negotiations we had, they must decide and reach a conclusion on the revival of the JCPOA in order to reach an agreement,” Araqchi said in recent remarks to Iran’s state media.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh has reiterated the same call, putting the onus of making tough decisions on the U.S. “The progress made in the Vienna talks is a fact acknowledged by all parties to the talks, although there are still important issues that largely need to be decided by the other parties, especially the United States. In fact, the finalization of the agreement to revive the JCPOA depends on the political will of the other parties to make tough decisions on their part,” he said.

Leave a Comment

0 + 0 =