Zarif Tells US: Stop Anti-JCPOA Hostility

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is in New York to attend a UN forum on Sustainable Development Goals and confer with distinguished figures on international issues
Mohammad Javad Zarif
Mohammad Javad Zarif

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned the US administration to cease its hostility toward the 2015 nuclear deal, which he said could lead to the collapse of the UN-endorsed international agreement.

"We believe that American leaders should reconsider their treatment of the accord, because it is not helping sustain the agreement," IRNA quoted Zarif as telling reporters upon arrival in New York on Friday to attend the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

US President Donald Trump's administration is expected to tell Congress early next week that Iran is still complying with the pact, three US officials said on Thursday, even as a broader review of Iran policy ordered by Trump drags on, AP reported.

As a candidate in the 2016 presidential election, Trump was an outspoken critic of the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but offered conflicting opinions on whether he would try to scrap it, modify it or keep it in place with more strenuous enforcement.

Trump and some top members of his administration remain critical of the action plan, but so far the president has not announced a decision to pull out.

Under the deal negotiated by Trump's predecessor Barack Obama and major powers, the administration must certify to Congress every three months whether Iran is sticking to an elaborate set of terms designed to limit its nuclear program.

The Trump administration issued its first certification in April and faces a Monday deadline to certify that Iran is still abiding by its obligations.

Though officials cautioned that Trump could still change his mind, they said the administration was preparing to say Iran is indeed complying but that the certification does not prejudge the outcome of Trump's Iran policy review.

The officials were not authorized to discuss the decision publicly and requested anonymity.

The US State Department would not confirm ahead of the Monday deadline what action the administration will take.

But State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said until the Iran review is completed, the US will continue upholding its side of the agreement: relief from nuclear sanctions.

"That has not changed," Nauert said. "We'll ensure that Iran is held strictly accountable to its requirements."

Critics of the deal have pointed to alleged minor infractions as justification for the US to say Iran is not complying.

But the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN agency that is monitoring the nuclear deal, has said Iran is in compliance.

Scuttling the nuclear deal would further distance Trump from foreign leaders who are already upset over his move to withdraw the US from the global climate change agreement known as the Paris accord.

  No Appetite for Renegotiation  

Other powers that brokered the JCPOA along with the US have said there is no appetite for renegotiating it.

Despite the sanctions relief, Iran remains on the US State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism for its support of anti-Israel groups and is still subject to non-nuclear sanctions, including for alleged human rights abuses.

The nuclear pact was sealed in Vienna in July 2015 after 18 months of negotiations between a team of diplomats from Iran led by Zarif and their counterparts from the US and other four permanent members of the UN Security Council—Britain, China, France and Russia—and Germany.

Under its terms, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.

The UN forum is taking place from July 11 to 19, with the ministerial meeting scheduled for July 17-19. It aims to review progress on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals at the global level and this year's meeting is held on the theme of "eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world".

"Iran had already put in place plans based on the cultural and religious beliefs of its people to address a whole range of issues related to the Millennium Development Goals before the discussions and decisions that led to the current global agreement on sustainable development," Zarif said. "The international community should be informed on [those plans]."

SDGs are a successor to the eight Millennium Development Goals approved by heads of state in 2000 and ended in December 2015.

The new 17 goals cover a wide range of political and socioeconomic issues, including poverty, hunger, gender equality, industrialization, sustainable development, full employment, human rights, quality education, climate change and sustainable energy for all.

Zarif noted that he would attend a meeting of the US Council on Foreign Relations on Monday and will hold talks with distinguished cultural figures and influential bodies to explore the underlying causes of the current Middle Eastern conflicts that have dragged in more than a dozen regional and non-regional states.

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