Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has denounced US attempts to invoke a controversial mechanism to unilaterally reinstate sanctions on Tehran – a move with huge repercussions for the Iran nuclear deal.
“American snapback is illegal and unacceptable and the Americans know they cannot use snapback,” Zarif said during a ceremony in the capital Tehran on Sunday.
US President Donald Trump pledged Saturday to use the technique, a day after the UN Security Council overwhelmingly rejected an American resolution to extend an Iranian arms embargo.
“We’ll be doing a snapback,” Trump said during a news conference at his New Jersey golf club. “You’ll be watching it next week.”
“Snapback” was envisioned in the event Iran was proven to be in violation of the 2015 nuclear accord. Trump pulled out of the agreement, known as the JCPOA, in 2018. But the US circulated a six-page memo Thursday from State Department lawyers, claiming that the United States remained part of the 2015 Security Council resolution that endorsed the deal and still had the right to use the snapback provision.
Zarif strongly dismissed the contention. “American snapback is so illegal that it is not acceptable, and they know they cannot use it,” he said.
“We should not think that if they say something loudly and repeat it, they are right,” Zarif added.
The European Union announced on Sunday the US is not entitled to enforce the return of sanctions on Iran via the snapback mechanism.
US not entitled
“Since the United States unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in May 2018 and has not participated in it since, it could not be considered a participant,” said a spokeswoman of the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
“Therefore, we believe that the US is not in a position to access mechanisms that are reserved for JCPOA participants.”
Iranian Ambassador Majid Takht-Ravanchi said on Saturday the US sought to use the arms embargo “as a pretext for killing the JCPOA forever through the snapback mechanism.”
Zarif recalled that on May 8, 2018, former US national security adviser John Bolton “was so overjoyed to have ruined the JCPOA” that he triumphantly boasted during a press conference at the White House that “We are no longer a member of JCPOA to use the snapback mechanism.”
“The minutes are still on the White House website unless they go and remove them,” the top Iranian diplomat said.
The five other signatories of the JCOPA — Russia, China, United Kingdom, France and Germany — remain committed to the deal, and diplomats from several of these countries have voiced concern that extending the arms embargo would lead Iran to exit the nuclear agreement and speed up its nuclear energy program.
China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun reiterated after the vote the Chinese contention that since the US is no longer party to the 2015 agreement, it is “ineligible to demand the Security Council invoke a snapback.”
He said the overwhelming majority of council members “believe the US attempt has no legal basis.”
“Should the US insist regardless of international opinion, it is doomed to fail like today,” Zhang said in a statement, adding that the vote showed “that unilateralism receives no support and bullying will fail.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday proposed a video summit with the United States and the remaining parties to the nuclear deal to try to avoid further “confrontation and escalation of the situation in the Security Council.”
“The issue is urgent,” Putin said in a statement, adding that the alternative was “only further escalation of tensions, increasing risk of conflict – such a scenario must be avoided.”
China said on Saturday that it welcomes Putin’s proposal.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Beijing appreciates Russia’s efforts to ease tensions on the Iranian nuclear program and to strengthen regional security, Zhao said.
China has always firmly supported the JCPOA and is devoted to safeguarding peace and stability in the Middle East, said Zhao.
“China is willing to work with parties concerned to keep close communication and coordination, and jointly promote the process of political resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue.”
The US president on Saturday all but dismissed Putin’s call for a summit of world leaders to discuss Iran, saying he probably would not participate.
When asked whether he would participate in the Putin-backed summit, Trump responded, “Probably not.”
Press TV, Reuters, Xinhua and rnd.de contributed to this story.