Press Releases EEAS: Iran: Remarks by the High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the EP plenary debate on the situation in Iran

EEAS: Iran: Remarks by the High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the EP plenary debate on the situation in Iran

I thank the European Parliament for its ongoing concern about the situation in Iran, including the recent worrying Human Rights related developments.
Iran is in the middle of a difficult period. The COVID-19 is affecting the country severely, with more than 3,000 new infections every day, nearing half a million in total, and at least 27,000 deaths. The COVID-19 crisis is further deepening Iran’s existing economic difficulties. Following the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the so-called JCPOA, Iran had legitimate expectations that this “nuclear deal” would result in more concrete economic benefits.
Yet, after the regrettable US departure from the agreement and re-instatement of severe sanctions, the overall economic figures speak for themselves; the International Monetary Fund is predicting a 10% drop in GDP this year, [after a] 8,5 drop last year; unemployment is at 16%; [within the past year] the Iranian rial has lost almost half its value towards the US dollar; trade with the EU has decreased. In addition, Iran is experiencing shortages of important humanitarian items like personal protective equipment and medicine that could help in fighting COVID-19. There are severe shortages of all capacities to fight the COVID-19.
As European Union, we were quick to provide humanitarian support, with a [humanitarian] air bridge, and we keep strongly advocating – together with the UN Secretary General [António Guterres] that sanctions must not impede humanitarian trade. Together with European Union Member States we also keep looking at ways to encourage more legitimate trade between the EU and Iran, including through INSTEX [the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges]. But we need to do more.
These difficulties have also had a political impact in Iran, not least at the parliamentary election earlier this year; we have seen a strengthening of those opposed to the nuclear deal, who are distrustful of the West and who do not support diplomacy and engagement. Together with our European and international partners, we are working hard to make sure that diplomacy with Iran continues to be possible.
We have also witnessed several deeply concerning human rights developments recently. This includes the treatment of Nasrin Sotoudeh and the many other political prisoners who remain imprisoned, whose health is at risk and should be released on humanitarian grounds, or at least have prompt access to medical assistance if they require it.
We also condemned publicly the execution of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari and called on the Iranian authorities to investigate allegations that he was tortured in detention. We underline to all our partners, and not just Iran, that the perpetrators of such acts must be held accountable.
We continue to engage the Iranian authorities on their distressing practice of arbitrarily detaining European Union-Iranian dual nationals. We acknowledge the temporary release of French citizen Fariba Adelkhah, no individual should be used as a pawn and I want to once again urge the Iranian authorities to cease this policy.
Madam President, Honourable Members,
Let me finish with some remarks on the nuclear agreement. I want to be clear: As Coordinator – because the High Representative acts as coordinator of the JCPOA – I will continue to do everything possible to ensure the preservation and full implementation of the nuclear deal by all parties. Why is this so important? Because it is in our very own European security interest. And because the agreement continues to deliver. Without the nuclear deal, Iran could have developed a nuclear weapon by now with all the security implications for the region and beyond. 
Of course, I am very concerned about Iran’s reduced implementation of its JCPOA nuclear commitments following the US withdrawal from the agreement two years ago. And I do believe that full implementation of the nuclear deal by Iran and the other parties remains crucial to our efforts to preserve it.
However, we should not forget that even though the amount of nuclear material Iran possesses today is more than it had two years ago, it is still far less than the ten tons of enriched uranium that Iran possessed before the agreement. And we know that this is thanks to the JCPOA:  Iran is the most monitored country in the world by the International Atomic Energy Agency, with now almost 400 inspections per year. If we were to lose the agreement, we would lose such critical information about the nuclear programme, too. 
During recent weeks, a great amount of attention has been devoted to attempts by the United States to bring back the United Nations Iran sanctions. Here I want to be very clear also, once more: bringing back these sanctions would have meant the end of the JCPOA. 13 members of the Security Council, including all European members, rejected this approach and underlined the importance to keep the agreement in place – this way supporting the understanding that the US is no longer part of the JCPOA because they freely decided to withdraw from it. They were also very clear that – after leaving the agreement in 2018 – the United States was not in a position to initiate the so-called ‘snap back’ process of bringing back United Nations sanctions under the UN Security Council resolution 2231. As JCPOA Coordinator, I thus want to re-iterate that all sanctions lifting commitments under the agreement remain in place.
I will personally continue to remain engaged on all of these issues, knowing that you are being criticized by both parts when you take this stance, and I count on the strong backing of this Parliament and the Council to promote a holistic approach to Iran that takes into account the different facets of our bilateral relationship. Engagement with Iran on all these issues remains in the European Union’s vital strategic interest, and that is why we are approaching the issue the way we do.
Thank you.

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