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Too early to "bury" nuclear deal with Iran, says Russia’s envoy in Vienna

VIENNA, May 21. /TASS/. The United States’ unilateral pullout from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) for the Iranian nuclear program has considerably hindered the implementation of the achieved agreements, but it is too early to discard them altogether, Russia’s representative at the international organizations in Vienna, ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov, told TASS.

"For now nobody can say that the nuclear deal with Iran is dead. One cannot but recall US literature classic Mark Twain’s fabulous saying about the greatly exaggerated rumors of his demise," Ulyanov said. "The current situation is rather serious, though. It’s one year since the US pullout from the JCPOA, but the agreement remains effective, largely because the Iranians have taken a very responsible attitude. They adhere to it scrupulously. As for the other part of the deal, which is expected to serve as an incentive for implementing the nuclear part, it has been nearly ruined. The remaining participants are unable to maintain this balance.

Tehran’s well-considered steps

"When on May 8, the anniversary of the US pullout from the agreement, the Iranians said they were terminating compliance with two elements of the agreement, we reacted to this with understanding," the diplomat said. "This is easy to understand by and large, because the deal proper does reserve such a right for the Iranians: to terminate compliance with either the JCPOA altogether, or with some of its provisions in case of other participants’ default on the agreement. The Iranians preferred to act with high precision. They stopped compliance only with the two provisions that have become practically impossible to implement due to US decisions."

The United States suspended its exemptions to the sanctions applying to the purchases the surplus of Iranian low-enriched uranium and heavy water, Ulyanov recalled.

"As a result nobody is eager to purchase Iranian uranium and heavy water for there is a risk of facing US sanctions," he said. "In the meantime, the Iranians have displayed a very responsible approach and given all other participants in the deal two months to correct the situation. Incidentally, Tehran’s aforesaid decisions do not entail any JCPOA violations, because the Iranians are still far below the permissible levels - the limits established for enriched uranium and heavy water."

The International Atomic Energy Agency has no complaints against Iran yet. Its secretariat says that all conditions of the nuclear part of the deal are observed in full, Ulyanov added.


EU’s turn to reciprocate


"The Iranians are waiting for the Europeans to create conditions for the normal performance of banking transactions and the export of Iranian oil," Ulyanov said. "Theoretically, the mechanism created by the EU troika (special mechanism of financial transactions with Iran INSTEX - Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) paves the way for considerably easing these problems, if not resolving them altogether. But this has not happened yet, because the mechanism still exists only on paper but not a single transaction has been carried out."

Also, the Europeans are going to begin with transactions to which the US sanctions do not apply and which could have been performed in the ordinary fashion, for instance medical and food supplies, while theoretically INSTEX might have been used for the transfer of proceeds from Iranian oil export, which in fact the Iranians expect.


US arbitrariness


"The main problem is the United States has not only stopped complying with the JCPOA, but have been trying to create hindrances to quite legal economic transactions by other countries. In fact, it uses the threat of sanctions to block what was authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 2231," Ulyanov said. "This is utter outrage in the international scene. It’s piracy and arbitrariness which has no legal grounds to rely on. At all meetings of the IAEA Board of Governors I keep saying that this is crude violation of the UN Charger, in particular, Article 25."

The last item of the JCPOA preamble says that in accordance with Article 25 of the UN Charter all states are obliged to abide by UN Security Council resolutions. "It is noteworthy that the Americans, who proposed this clause, have grossly violated it themselves."


Way out must be found


Ulyanov finds it rather hard to predict the further march of events. It might be possible to speculate that in two months’ time the Iranians will abort the project to reconfigure the Arak heavy water reactor in accordance with the JCPOA and may insignificantly increase the level of uranium enrichment, which currently stands at 3.67% for uranium-235. At least the Iranians have mentioned such a possibility themselves.

"For the time being Iran’s steps have not undermined the JCPOA or jeopardized non-proliferation, because they constitute first and foremost a political signal to the remaining participants in the agreement to the effect that something has to be done about it. Iran finds it ever more difficult to keep the deal afloat on its own," Ulyanov said. "The way I see it, a likely solution might be to call a meeting of the Joint Commission - the JCPOA does provide for such a mechanism - to consider in earnest without indulging in grand-stand play or creating an illusion of vigorous activity - what can be done in reality to lift at least of some of Iran’s reasonable economic concerns.".