Irish FM sees ‘fundamental’ change in U.S. approach to JCPOA

March 9, 2021 - 22:36

TEHRAN - Ireland's Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said the U.S. has adopted a fundamentally different approach to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and that there is a new window of opportunity to revive the pact.

“We have seen a change of policy in the United States, which is very fundamental, towards the JCPOA and working to protect that agreement in the future and of course we have had strong signals from Iran also that if there are moves in that direction, we will respond positively,” the Irish foreign minister told Iran’s state news IRNA during his recent visit to Iran. 

Referring to the damages caused by the U.S. unilateral withdrawal from the Iran deal, he said: “The challenge now, I think, for senior politicians and decisions makers in the key countries involved is to find a way of building sufficient trust that can allow the negotiation to proceed and to allow the JCPOA to be rebuilt because of the damages that have been done in recent years.”

He said there is a new opportunity to revive the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Underlining the fact that rebuilding the JCPOA won’t be easy, the chief Irish diplomat noted that now there is a window of opportunity to revive the deal.

“That won't be easy but in my view, it is an opportunity that we should not lose and I think many countries Iran included will regret it if they don’t,” he said, adding, “I certainly think that there is a window of opportunity now that all of us who are committed to the JCPOA and the nuclear agreement needs to take. There will always be some who will oppose this in key positions but in my view, this is an opportunity that potentially could ease tensions in the region and globally.”

Coveney elaborated on his talks with Iranian officials and the relations between Iran and Ireland.

“The bilateral relationship between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Ireland is going to take a jump forward in the months and years ahead,” he said, adding, “We are committed to reopening the Irish embassy in Tehran in the next few years and in the short term we are going to have a charge de affairs who will be in the German embassy but to work with our consular who is based here in Tehran and to prepare for setting up our Irish embassy here.”

Commenting on his meetings with Iranian officials, the Irish foreign minister stated, “The main focus of my visit today and we had the privilege of meeting President Rouhani and Foreign minister Zarif was to focus on the JCPOA and we are on the (UN) Security Council for the next two years and we have a specific role as a facilitator for Resolution 2231 which is the resolution which is the basis for the JCPOA from 2015.”

“I think most people in Iran know what has happened since then and the last few years have been difficult but I believe there is an opportunity now with the new administration taking office in the U.S. and also with an opportunity for Iran to move back in compliance with the JCPOA in a way that the deal was originally intended.”

“There is an opportunity to improve our relations with other parts of the world and to ensure that what was a historic agreement in 2015 from an Iranian perspective to a global perspective can be put into practice in full again that what happened by itself,” he continued. 

The top Irish diplomat gave further details about his meeting with the Iranian president and foreign minister.

“Iranian concerns” 

“It involves governments that are willing to take risks to start to build trust and that won't be easy. My meeting with President Rouhani was primarily about this issue to understand the Iranian concerns but also ambitions in the context of the JCPOA in the future and of course, we have followed that up nearly three hours of discussions with foreign minister Zarif; of course, we spoke about many other things as well from Yemen to Syria, to Lebanon, to Afghanistan, to Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

“Historic agreement” 

He added, “We touched on a lot of regional issues but we spent about half of our time on discussing the JCPOA and why would to take forward back into full compliance by what we regard as a historic and important agreement from 2015 that unfortunately since 2018 has been very damaged so this is a historic opportunity in my view for Iran to take  and we hope that the other countries that are involved in the JCPOA would encourage a move in the right direction, of course, we hope that the new U.S. administration will also have given a signal and that the direction that we want to move in.”

Coveney stated that new U.S. President Joe Biden has changed Washington’s policy on Iran in a short time. “I think we have seen in a relatively short time and the new U.S. president and administration changed policy, give a very clear signal that they are interested in re-engaging positively in the context of the JCPOA,” he said, adding, “They along with EU partners have invited Iran to come and talk about how that might work. They have taken some actions also in terms of removing some travel restrictions from Iranian diplomats and so there have been very clear signals coming from Washington that they want to engage positively.”

The Irish foreign minister said he understands the skepticism in Iran about the West.

“I can understand the skepticism and cautions coming from Iran because of recent years but let me assure you the European Union wants to see the JCPOA protected; the E3 wants to see the JCPOA protected and reenacted if you like and I believe that the U.S. wants that too and what is required now is engagement with all of the key players who are responsible for the JCPOA in the first place P5+1 structure and we all need to work to ensure that we can provide reassurance to Iran and to others that engagement is what we have trust in so that we can move this process in the new political environment that is now available. We can move forward in a progressive way that protects the JCPOA and to put its benefits in place,” he stated. 

 ‘We want to work with Iran in a constructive way’ 

He went further to say, “Ireland is a country that is well-traveled we have less than 5 million people living in the Republic of Ireland but we have about 70 million people of Irish [descent] to send across the world so we are a global nation in many ways and we take interest in global affairs and Iran is a very significant country in this region. We want to understand this and we want to work with Iran in a constructive way when possible and I hope we can do that in relation to Yemen, JCPOA, humanitarian access to Syria, to take decisions in Afghanistan, supporting elections in Palestine while we disagree to some foreign policy issues.” 

“There are certain things we can work on together and we try to focus on the positive things as we can say this is a fascinating country, with an incredible history and I hope we can look to the future with more optimism.”

Coveney said Ireland is going to open an embassy in Iran. 

“Last week, the Irish government formally made the decision to reopen our embassy in Tehran. In 2012 Ireland closed a number of its embassies in the world we had a very difficult economic recession and we had to make some difficult choices for financial reasons. We are now in a stronger position and the combination of Ireland being on the Security Council and therefore relevant to the foreign policy to this part of the world but also our willingness to expand our global diplomatic footprint has meant that we want to have a presence in this region and in this country,” he said.