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Iran Nuclear Agreement: Briefing on the Implementation of Resolution 2231

This afternoon (27 June), the Security Council will hold its semi-annual briefing on the implementation of resolution 2231, adopted in July 2015, which endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear programme. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo will brief on the Secretary-General’s 12 June report (S/2018/602) on the implementation of the resolution. In his capacity as the Council's 2231 facilitator, Ambassador Karel van Oosterom (the Netherlands) will report on the work of the Council related to Iran; and the Head of the EU delegation, Ambassador Joâo Pedro Vale de Almeida, will brief the Council on the work of the JCPOA’s Joint Commission. The EU is the coordinator of the Commission, which is made up of the parties to the JCPOA and is responsible for overseeing the agreement’s implementation. In addition to Council members, Germany is expected to make a statement as an interested party under rule 37 of the provisional rules of procedure, given that it is a signatory of the JCPOA.

Today’s meeting takes place against the backdrop of the 8 May decision by the Trump administration to withdraw from the JCPOA and begin the process of restoring US sanctions on Iran. This will be the fifth Council briefing on the implementation of resolution 2231, and the first since the US unilaterally withdrew from the agreement.

In her briefing, DiCarlo is likely to draw on the main elements from the Secretary-General’s report published earlier this month. The report confirmed that Iran has continued to implement its nuclear-related commitments under the agreement, which was also verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in its latest report (S/2018/540). While the Secretary-General’s report acknowledged that the US withdrawal from the agreement represents a setback, he emphasised that this should not impede the ability of others to implement their commitments under the JCPOA and resolution 2231. DiCarlo is likely to reiterate the Secretary-General’s position that it is important to preserve the JCPOA, which he considers an important element of international peace and security and a major achievement in non-proliferation efforts.

Some Council members might be interested to hear more from DiCarlo on allegations that Iran has violated restrictions on ballistic missile-related activities or transfers. During the reporting period, Saudi Arabia brought to the attention of the Secretariat nine allegations that missiles containing parts from Iran were launched at Saudi Arabia by Houthi rebels in Yemen. Iran has continued to deny these allegations. The Secretary-General’s report indicates that the Secretariat has not yet been able confirm whether such missiles, or their parts, were transferred from Iran after the entry into force of the JCPOA on 16 January 2016.

Van Oosterom is expected to provide an update on the Council’s activities related to resolution 2231, which he has overseen as facilitator. He is likely to focus solely on factual information contained in the facilitator’s report (S/2018/624), given the political sensitivities surrounding the Iran nuclear issue. He may cover the proposals submitted by member states to participate with or permit activities by Iran in connection with nuclear or dual-use goods, technology and/or related services. In the past six months, 13 new proposals have been submitted to the Security Council; eight have been approved, two have been withdrawn and three are currently under review.

Council members are likely to express their views on Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA and on the future of the agreement following the US withdrawal. The US may reiterate its view that Iran has violated the spirit of the agreement, and point to its involvement in conflicts in the Middle East. On the other hand, the EU Council members, who are supportive of the JCPOA and have emphasised Iran’s compliance with it, are likely to reiterate that they will continue to abide by the agreement.

Some EU members might address the challenges of implementing the agreement once the US starts reimposing sanctions on Iran and secondary sanctions that could affect the EU and other parties. On 4 June, the British, German and French finance and foreign ministers sent a letter, which was also co-signed by EU High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini, to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in which they asked the US to grant EU companies exemptions from secondary sanctions. They maintained that these measures could impair the ability of the EU to continue sanctions relief, which Iran deems necessary in order to remain in the agreement.

In his briefing, Almeida will probably focus on the work of the Joint Commission and its procurement working group. He may also cover the 25 May meeting of the Joint Commission in Vienna, which was requested by Iran in order to discuss future steps in regard to the implementation of the agreement. At the meeting, all participants regretted the withdrawal of the US from the agreement and discussed practical ways of maintaining it. The Joint Commission has continued to carry out its regular tasks without the participation of the US.

As outlined in its 11 May letter (S/2018/453) to the Council, Iran has been highly critical of the US decision to withdraw from the JCPOA, which it considers a material breach of resolution 2231 and a violation of international law and the UN Charter. Iran, which is entitled to participate in these meetings as a concerned party, has never made a statement during the semi-annual briefings. It has complained that the reporting so far has been too narrowly focused on the implementation of the provisions of Annex B (which deals with the restrictions concerning Iran), as opposed to reviewing implementation of the commitments in the JCPOA more broadly, including those related to the lifting of sanctions.

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