Iran Scales Back Nuclear Curbs, Sets 60-Day Window for Diplomacy

"The path we have chosen today is not the path of war; it is the path of diplomacy. But diplomacy with a new language and a new logic," Rouhani said
Iran Scales Back Nuclear Curbs, Sets 60-Day Window for DiplomacyIran Scales Back Nuclear Curbs, Sets 60-Day Window for Diplomacy

Iran declared on Wednesday that it will stop complying with two of its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal, giving the remaining signatories 60 days to make good on promises to protect its oil and banking sectors from renewed US sanctions. 
In a statement issued on the first anniversary of Washington's exit from the agreement, Iran's Supreme National Security Council said the country would stop selling unspent enriched uranium and heavy water—which is used in nuclear reactors—to other nations with immediate effect, the presidential website reported. 
If the 60 days pass without action, Iran will halt a Chinese-led effort to redesign its Arak heavy water nuclear reactor and will end the limits on the enrichment of uranium, the statement said.
Currently, the accord restricts Iran to enriching uranium to 3.67%. The statement did not elaborate on the degree to which Tehran is prepared to enrich uranium, but it has previously enriched up to 20%. 
The council said the phased measures are being taken based on articles 26 and 36 of the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.



Legal Framework

Article 26 of the agreement states that Iran will treat a reintroduction or reimposition of specified sanctions or an imposition of new nuclear-related sanctions as "grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part".
The Trump administration recently acted to force Tehran to stop producing low-enriched uranium and not expand its only nuclear power plant, intensifying its campaign of sanctions and "maximum pressure" aimed at halting its ballistic missile program and curbing its regional power.
Under Article 36, if a party believes that another signatory is not meeting its commitments, it can refer the issue to the Joint Commission set up to handle any complaints about the deal's implementation.
"If the issue still has not been resolved to the satisfaction of the complaining participant and if the complaining participant deems the issue to constitute significant non-performance, then that participant could treat the unresolved issue as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part and/or notify the UN Security Council that it believes the issue constitutes significant non-performance."



Letters to Signatories

President Hassan Rouhani notified Britain, Russia, China, France and Germany of Iran's decision in separate letters handed to their ambassadors in Tehran earlier on Wednesday. 
A letter outlining Iran's decision was also sent to European Union foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, who coordinates the Joint Commission’s meetings, ISNA reported. 
"Whenever our demands are met, we will proportionately resume fulfilling the said obligations. Otherwise, the Islamic Republic of Iran will scale back more commitments in phases," Iran's Supreme National Security Council said.
It said Iranian officials are ready to continue their consultations with signatories of the deal but warned them of the consequences of any "irresponsible measure", such as referring the case to the UN Security Council or imposing new sanctions. 
"The president has clearly specified the nature of Iran's [potential] response in his letter to the heads of the participants in JCPOA," the statement said, without elaborating. 



Path of Diplomacy 

In a Cabinet session on Wednesday, Rouhani said, "The path we have chosen today is not the path of war; it is the path of diplomacy. But diplomacy with a new language and a new logic."
"We felt that the nuclear deal needed a surgery and that the painkillers of last year had been ineffective. This surgery is for saving the deal, not destroying it," he was quoted as saying by ISNA.
Iran's decision does not mark "the end of JCPOA", but is rather a "new step" within the framework of the pact, he added. 
The president said he was elected for two consecutive terms on a platform of "moderation" and "constructive engagement" with the world and that is the reason why Iran pursued a policy of "strategic patience" over the past year.
"We used the mechanisms stipulated in JCPOA and took the required legal steps [to preserve the deal]," Rouhani said. "Our friends also took good but insufficient steps and Europe adopted a good stance, but unfortunately it could not take practical measures, particularly in the economic sector." 
Washington's European allies, which opposed the US pullout, have tried and failed to come up with ways to blunt the economic impact of America's move while urging Iran to continue to comply.



Further Talks

The president invited all the parties involved to join further negotiations, saying that Iran will return to its commitments if they can help it reap the benefits of the deal, especially in petroleum exports and banking transactions. 
But he said the 2015 agreement must be the basis for such talks, a position the Trump administration has rejected.
The Islamic Republic favors "peace" and "moderation" and has never initiated any war but will never give in to "bullying", the president clarified. 
Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif separately issued his own warning from the Russian capital Moscow where he arrived on Tuesday for a two-day visit.
"After a year of patience, Iran stops measures that [the] US has made impossible to continue," he tweeted, adding that world powers have "a narrowing window to reverse this".



US "Irresponsible Behavior"

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who met Zarif in Moscow, said the situation surrounding the fate of the 2015 accord has been complicated by "the irresponsible behavior" of Washington, AP reported. 
Zarif told his Russian counterpart that Iran's actions did not violate the original terms of the nuclear agreement and that there was now a 60-day period for diplomatic activity over its decision, the RIA news agency said. 
France said it wanted to keep the deal alive but warned Tehran that if it were to not keep to its commitments then the question of triggering a mechanism that could lead to sanctions would be on the table.
"Today nothing would be worse than Iran, itself, leaving this agreement," French Defense Minister Florence Parly told BFM TV/RMC radio, Reuters reported.


Call for Restraint

China urged restraint on all sides but put the blame for the confrontation squarely on Washington, which it said had escalated tensions. 
At a press briefing, Geng Shuang, spokesman of China’s Foreign Ministry, praised Tehran for adhering to the nuclear agreement after the US withdrawal and reiterated his country's endorsement of the agreement and opposition to United States sanctions against Iran, the New York Times reported. 
Germany said it regretted statements made by the Iranian government and urged Tehran not to take any aggressive steps.
A German Foreign Ministry spokesman said Berlin wants to keep the Iran nuclear deal and would fully stick to its commitments as long as Iran does the same, Reuters reported. 
Britain said Iran would face consequences, if it backed away from its nuclear deal. 
"Today's announcement from Tehran is ... an unwelcome step," junior foreign office minister, Mark Field, told Britain's Parliament. 
"We are not at this stage talking about reimposing sanctions, but one has to remember that they were of course lifted in exchange for the nuclear restrictions." 
There was no immediate response from the US. However, the White House said on Sunday it would dispatch an aircraft carrier and a bomber wing to the Persian Gulf to confront what it claimed are threats from Iran.

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