Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions during a joint news conference following talks with Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney, Moscow, July 2, 2019
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have had lengthy and, I believe, useful talks.
Ireland is a good partner of ours in Europe. Last September, we marked the 45th anniversary of our diplomatic relations that have always developed based on the principles of equality and mutual respect. We noted that our bilateral dialogue had no serious unresolved problems.
We praised the level of our inter-parliamentary cooperation as well as a mutual interest in promoting contacts between regions. Moscow, St Petersburg and Tatarstan are the leading Russian regions in this regard. We have agreed to expand cultural and educational exchanges.
Last year, even despite the notorious sanctions, we managed to reach a good level of bilateral trade: about $2 billion, which is 33 per cent higher than in 2017. We have agreed to further promote the existing potential in trade and investment. In this connection, we support the activities of the Russian-Irish Intergovernmental Committee on the Development of Business Cooperation, which had a regular meeting last April. This committee is co-chaired by Ireland’s Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Simon Coveney and Russia’s Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov.
We have discussed topical issues related to international relations, including in the context of Dublin’s intention to run for the non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council in 2021–2022.
Our shared interest lies in promoting trust and mutual understanding on our common continent. We welcomed the positive and healthy dynamics in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which made important decisions on the inviolability of its Charter stipulating the equal rights and responsibilities of all members of the Council of Europe in all its agencies.
We share the approach that there is no alternative to a political and diplomatic settlement of many crises in the Middle East and North Africa, above all, in Syria. We have informed our colleagues about the efforts that Russia is making, alongside other participants of the Astana format, Turkey and Iran, to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2254.
We also took note of the importance of preserving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. This is a very serious issue.
We talked about the Russian Federation’s other views on international issues, and discussed the situation with strategic stability in the context of the recent contacts between Moscow and Washington, including the meeting between President Putin and President Trump.
We paid a great deal of attention to the relations between Russia and the European Union, primarily, in the context of the abnormal situation that has unfolded since 2014.
We told our Irish colleagues in great detail about our vision of ways to overcome the Ukrainian crisis based on full, strict and scrupulous compliance with the Minsk Package of Measures signed on February 12, 2015, as well as with the agreements that followed, which were achieved within the framework of the Normandy format in 2015 and 2016, and within the framework of the Contact Group, which serves as the key format for carrying out direct dialogue between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk, as stipulated by the Minsk Agreements.
I hope that our discussions today were useful to help us better understand each other’s positions.
We are grateful to our colleagues for their assessment of the Brexit situation, which occupies a special place in today’s agenda of the Irish Government.
I am satisfied with the results of the talks, which showed our mutual interest in intensifying our contacts. I hope this will benefit the Russian-Irish ties and serve the interests of our citizens.
Question: Today you noted the importance of preserving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Could you comment on yesterday’s statement by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that Iran has expanded its enriched uranium stocks against the backdrop of US-Iranian disagreements regarding the nuclear deal? Does this mean that the JCPOA has been wrecked?
Sergey Lavrov: Of course, we can hear the assessments of current developments, and certain questions arise. But we must grasp the entire picture in order to see what is happening today. We should not view various actions of any party to the JCPOA in isolation because this will not help us draw the right conclusions.
Yesterday, our colleagues form the European Union suggested that our missions at international organisations in Vienna pass a statement urging Iran not to violate its obligations. At the same time, the draft statement said nothing about the reasons for such actions that we are now witnessing and the decisions that have been announced in Tehran.
Bear in mind that the JCPOA is a comprehensive package of obligations and rights of all parties to this agreement. Iran’s voluntary obligations to maintain the maximum ceiling of low-enriched uranium and heavy water stocks are part of this process. This obligation is inextricably linked with Iran’s right to enrich uranium stocks to 3.67 per cent under the JCPOA and to manufacture heavy water. Iran had the right to sell surplus amounts in excess of the established ceiling. This was done rather successfully until now, including after the US withdrawal from this programme on May 10 last year. But Iran continued to maintain preset ceiling and to supply surplus amounts to countries that took them away from it, including Russia.
Not so long ago, in May of this year, the United States adopted a new package of sanctions that forbade anyone to buy Iran’s surpluses of low-grade uranium and heavy water. Thereby, the US has, in fact, forbidden all UN member states to implement the UN Security Council resolution that approved the JCPOA, which is aimed at solving the Iranian nuclear problem.
This is why it is necessary to look at the entire picture rather than focus on what Iran did today. I would like our European colleagues to realise in full measure their responsibility for preserving the JCPOA. They also have a crucial commitment under this Plan to ensure Iran’s economic interests, including opportunities to sell oil and receive sales revenue. This is an inalienable component of the agreement.
When the US withdrew from this programme and practically forbade anyone to buy oil, the Europeans volunteered to form a mechanism that would enable Iran to sell oil unhampered and receive payments without hindrance as well. We held a special meeting in Vienna in June last year and in New York in September. It took them almost a year to develop this mechanism. They announced its creation a couple of months ago, but not for trading in oil. It was only for humanitarian supplies not covered by the US sanctions and only for the EU members rather than all those willing to trade with Iran. But even with these reservations, this mechanism has failed, to date, to cater even to one single transaction.
If we speak about the need to preserve the JCPOA, this implies commitments for everyone, at least for all those who are still involved in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. But this does not mean that we can and must urge Iran to comply with all of its commitments while the rest treat them very lightly and even, as we suspect, prefer to abstain from criticising the United States and focus on what Iran is doing.
We call on our Iranian colleagues to display reserve, not to succumb to emotion under any circumstances, and to comply with the key provisions of the IAEA Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and the Additional Protocol. We also call on our European colleagues to live up to their promises and obligations and make the mechanism they have developed really effective and ensuring the rights that Iran has under the UN Security Council resolution on trade and economic ties. Unless they do this, it will be very difficult to maintain a rational and effective dialogue on preserving the JCPOA. But we will do all we can to preserve this vitally important agreement. It is of special significance not only for settling the concrete situation around Iran, which emerged several years ago and was later solved, but also for strengthening the non-proliferation regime.