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Iran nuclear deal parties vow to save agreement, reject US bid to return sanctions

Handshake (Home Affairs) Andres Anvelt and Helga Maria Schmid (Annika Haas/WikiCommons)
September 02, 2020

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The remaining parties to the Iran nuclear deal have agreed to save the faltering agreement, rejecting an attempt by Washington to trigger a return of UN sanctions on Tehran.

Senior EU foreign policy official Helga-Maria Schmid, who chaired the September 1 meeting in Vienna, said in a statement that “all participants reaffirmed the importance of preserving the agreement.”

Representatives from Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran, and Russia attended the meeting, which is part of a regular series of gatherings to discuss implementation of the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The United States withdrew from the 2015 landmark agreement more than two years ago and reimposed sanctions on Iran, which responded by progressively stepping up its nuclear activities because it has failed to receive economic benefits promised in the deal.

In a controversial move, the United States on August 20 formally began a 30-day process at the UN to trigger the return of international sanctions on Iran under a “snapback” provision in the Iran nuclear accord.

But the UN Security Council overwhelming rejected the United States’ claim it remains a “participant” in the nuclear deal because it was listed as such in the UN resolution that enshrined it, setting the stage for a showdown later this month at the international body.

In the EU’s statement, Schmid said the remaining participants to the accord reaffirmed the United States unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018 and had not participated in any JCPOA-related activity since.

The United States “could not be considered as a participant state,” the statement said.

Chinese representative, Fu Cong, told reporters after the Vienna meeting that the JCPOA participants all agreed that the United States had no “legal ground or legal standing to trigger snapback.” He said Washington is trying “to sabotage or even kill the JCPOA.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said after the talks that parties to the JCPOA have come together against U.S. attempts to reinstate sanctions against Iran and impose its “skewed and unilateral interpretation of the situation” on the world.

In a boost to the Vienna talks, Iran last week agreed to allow inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog to visit two sites suspected of having hosted undeclared nuclear activity in the early 2000s.

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency had criticized Iranian officials for denying it access to the two locations, and for not answering its questions about past activities at the sites.

In another blow to Washington, the United States also failed to rally enough support to extend an arms embargo on Iran set to expire in late October.

Iran has threatened to completely exit the JCPOA and hinted it will pull out of another key nonproliferation treaty if the arms embargo is extended or there is a “snapback” of sanctions.

But Tehran has said it will come fully back into compliance with the JCPOA if the United States abides by its commitments and lifts unilateral sanctions.