Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions following the Joint Commission ministerial meeting of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Vienna, July 6, 2018
A meeting of the Joint Commission of the countries participating in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on resolving the situation around the Iranian nuclear programme at the level of foreign ministers took place. Of course, the meeting was devoted to the situation surrounding the agreement on Iran's nuclear programme after the United States unilaterally withdrew from it in violation of the commitments Washington had taken upon itself, not only as part of the JCPOA programme, but also the unanimously adopted UN Security Council resolution.
Everyone agreed that this is a major violation of the agreed upon terms which actually made it possible to significantly alleviate tensions from the point of view of the military and political situation in the region and upholding the non-proliferation regime, and, of course, of normalising trade and economic ties with Iran. The agreement worked effectively all three years. Iran was meticulously fulfilling its obligations. This was certified and continues to be certified by the IAEA, so everyone agreed once again that this move by Washington was not dictated by any specific circumstance other than its desire to re-politicise the process and the situation around Iran in general, and to put forward more conditions for Tehran to comply with which have nothing to do with the problems related to its nuclear programme. Iran is currently the most heavily inspected county of the IAEA. The IAEA enjoys unprecedented access to all the sites that could be connected with the military aspects of the nuclear programme. It is very imprudent and risky to jeopardise such an important agreement, which allows for secure and reliable support for the non-proliferation regime.
We agreed, although it was not an easy thing to do considering the not always aligned interests of the European "troika", China, Russia and Iran, that the mechanism of the Joint Commission at the level of experts will be constantly reviewing options which will make it possible, regardless of the US decision, to continue to adhere to all commitments undertaken within the JCPOA framework and provide methods for conducting trade and economic relations with Iran which will not depend on Washington’s whims. The United States has already threatened to apply extraterritorial sanctions, which Washington will impose in the coming month in the first wave. The second wave will follow in November in the form of a total ban on Iranian oil purchases. Everyone agrees that this is an absolutely illegitimate practice. It cannot be accepted as appropriate, but it is a policy that can hardly be changed. Severe clashes are expected in the trade, economic and political spheres. The permanent mechanism of experts will be used to develop methods for maintaining trade and economic relations which will not create problems for economic actors of the countries that have maintained their participation in this agreement. It is fundamentally important for these methods for organising trade and other economic projects with Iran's participation to be fairly large-scale, because Iran went ahead and signed this agreement in response to full liberalisation of the environment in which it found itself during the period of sanctions.
That is what we agreed upon. The agreement is enshrined in the final statement which outlines, among other things, the areas in which we will work to ensure trade and economic cooperation with Iran independently of the United States.
Question: Did you discuss Iran’s threats, for instance the one to shut down the strait?
Sergey Lavrov: No, we didn’t. Our meeting was not devoted to this issue. Responding to the appeals of the other participants Iran reaffirmed its commitments to the agreements fixed in the JCPOA. Naturally, this means that Iran will continue cooperating with the IAEA. All participants urged it to do this. Although Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif noted that now that the US unilaterally withdrew from these agreements (now the deal no longer exists because the US was its main participant and partner on which full restoration of Iran’s economic ties depended), Iran also has a formal right to do the same but it won’t use this right. All participants welcomed its attitude. I think this is a responsible position. I hope we will stick to this position. The main point is that Iran occupies it.
Question: Why hasn’t British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson come to the meeting?
Sergey Lavrov: I stopped following steps of our partners from the Foggy Albion. I am not interested in this at all.
Question: Is the agenda of the meeting between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump ready? What will they discuss?
Sergey Lavrov: Everyone is talking about it, including the US President’s National Security Adviser John Bolton. There will be no formal paper. Both presidents are experienced and influential enough to decide themselves what to discuss.
Question: Will they discuss the southern de-escalation zone?
Sergey Lavrov: This was mentioned more than once. Both Syria ad Ukraine will be discussed. They will discuss everything they want.
Question: Returning to today’s meeting, Foreign Minister of France Jean-Yves Le Drian said they are working on their own measures towards the US. Did you discuss this?
Sergey Lavrov: This doesn’t concern Iran. They are simply responding to the new decisions on higher tariffs that US President Trump imposed on European goods. This is an independent process. In this context the European Union has taken counter measures within the WTO norms. The Russian Government will make its decision today. We will also impose higher tariffs on many goods that we used to buy from the United States.
Question: Judging by the mood of European politicians, to which extent are they ready to stand up for Iran?
Sergey Lavrov: I wouldn’t say that they want “to stand up for Iran.” They want to ensure their economic interests and political commitments. It is impossible to make companies do something. It is only possible to create the conditions that they will find acceptable. Total, Peugeot and Renault have already left Iran. They analysed the situation and decided that the American market is more important for them. Our French colleagues explained to us that there is nothing they can do about this. What they can do is to elaborate collectively and individually such forms of trade and settlements with Iran that will not depend on the dollar and will be accepted by those companies that see trade with Iran more profitable than with the US. Such companies certainly exist - small, medium and large.