Iran’s Zarif Accuses Europe Of Violating Nuclear Deal

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gestures during a press conference in Tehran.  ATTA KENARE / AFP

 

European powers have violated a 2015 international nuclear deal, Iran’s foreign minister told a conference in India on Wednesday, a day after Britain, France and Germany launched a complaint against Tehran for non-compliance.

The European states initiated a so-called dispute mechanism process, saying Iran had progressively scaled back its commitments under the agreement.

The move, which came at a time of red-hot tensions between Iran and the United States, sparked anger in Tehran and on Wednesday Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif said Europe was being “bullied” by Washington.

“They are not buying oil from us, all of their companies have withdrawn from Iran. So Europe is in violation,” Zarif told a conference in New Delhi, saying the future of the deal now “depends on Europe”.

He added that the European Union “is the largest global economy. So why do you allow the United States to bully you around?”

The accord, which makes it significantly more difficult for Iran to develop nuclear weapons undetected, was struck in Vienna by Iran, the three European nations, the United States, China and Russia.

The agreement allows a party to claim significant non-compliance by another party before a joint commission.

If the issue is not resolved by the commission, it then goes to an advisory board and eventually to the UN Security Council, which could reimpose sanctions that were lifted under the accord.

President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018. Since then Iran has walked back on its commitments including on processing uranium, which can be used in nuclear weapons.

Tehran’s latest step in January to forgo the limit on the number of machines used to make uranium more potent prompted the Europeans to trigger the mechanism.

But the three powers said they “once again express our commitment” to the deal and expressed “determination to work with all participants to preserve it.”

Iran’s foreign ministry said in response on Tuesday that “if the Europeans… seek to abuse (this process), they must also be prepared to accept the consequences”.

 ‘Thoughtless’ 

Russia condemned the “thoughtless” European move, warning it risked causing a “new escalation”.

A US State Department spokesperson said Washington fully supported the three countries, adding “further diplomatic and economic pressure is warranted”.

Zarif also said that the US killing on January 3 of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Iraq had served only to strengthen the Islamic State group.

“I think the war against Daesh (ISIS) just suffered a major setback, and Daesh just won a major victory,” he said.

He also implied that the crisis sparked by the killing of Soleimani had contributed to Iran’s accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner on January 8, killing all 176 people on board.

“Why did it happen? Because there was a crisis. People make mistakes, unforgivable mistakes, but it happened in the time of the crisis,” Zarif said.

AFP

UN Informed Me Of US Visa Denial, Says Iran Foreign Minister

ran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at a conference in Tehran on October 21, 2019. ATTA KENARE / AFP

 

Iran’s foreign minister said Tuesday he has been informed by UN chief Antonio Guterres that Washington has denied him a visa for a trip to UN headquarters in New York.

“What we know is that the US State Secretary (Mike Pompeo), in a call to the Secretary General of the United Nations, said: ‘We did not have time to issue a visa for Mohammad Javad Zarif and we will not issue a visa’,” Zarif said.

“The Secretary General responded by saying that it is Iran’s right to take part in this session,” Tehran’s top diplomat said, quoted by semi-official news agency ISNA.

So far there has been no official confirmation from Washington that it has rejected Zarif’s visa application.

Zarif was speaking to reporters in Tehran at a gathering to promote an Iranian peace plan for the Gulf.

His remarks came as Iran held funeral processions on Tuesday for one of its top military commanders killed in a US drone strike in Iraq.

Zarif later took to Twitter, saying the rejection violated the terms of a 1947 agreement on the travel of representatives of UN members to and from the headquarters.

But he said “denying me a visa… pales in comparison to” US sanctions and threats, as well as the “cowardly assassination” of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani last week.

“What are they really afraid of? Truth?” he tweeted.

Soleimani’s killing in the US strike Friday in Baghdad has sparked a war of words between the arch-foes, with Iran vowing “severe revenge” and US President Donald Trump threatening to hit back hard for any retaliation.

Trump warned on Saturday that Washington had lined up 52 targets if Tehran attacked US personnel or assets.

Zarif said the US visa decision was “a sign of the bankruptcy of the US government and Trump’s regime”, according to ISNA.

The Iranian foreign minister said he had been planning to go to UN headquarters on Thursday for an open debate on “Upholding the Charter of the United Nations”.

But he added that he had also intended to “raise America’s crimes” during his visit to New York.

It is not the first time that Iranian officials have encountered problems when travelling to New York for events at UN headquarters.

In December, the UN General Assembly called on the United States to lift restrictions on Iranian diplomats.

Since mid-2019, Iranian diplomats and ministers have been under strict movement restrictions when they are in the United States.

They are limited largely to the area around UN headquarters, the Iranian diplomatic mission and the ambassador’s residence.

In September, while taking part in the annual General Assembly, Zarif complained he was unable to visit the country’s UN ambassador in a US hospital.

AFP

EU Invites Iranian Foreign Minister Amid Rising Regional Tensions

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks with his Russia’s counterpart during a meeting in Moscow on December 30, 2019.
Yuri KADOBNOV / AFP

 

Iran’s foreign minister has been invited to Brussels, the European Union said Sunday, urging a “de-escalation of tensions” in the Gulf after US airstrikes that killed a top Iranian general.

The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell made the offer to Mohammad Javad Zarif during a telephone call this weekend, a press release said.

“Borrell invited the Iranian Foreign Minister to Brussels to continue their engagement on these matters,” it said.

A regional political solution was the “only way forward”, Borrell said, underlining “the importance of preserving” the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

READ ALSO: US Lacks ‘Courage’ To Strike 52 Iranian sites – Army Chief

He confirmed “his resolve to continue to fully play his role as coordinator and keep the unity of the remaining participants in support of the agreement and its full implementation by all parties”.

US-Iran tensions have escalated since 2018 when President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the landmark accord that gave Tehran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.

Iran has hit back by reducing its nuclear commitments with a series of steps every 60 days, the most recent deadline passing Saturday.

Trump warned Saturday night that the US would hit Iran harder than ever before if it retaliates over the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force foreign operations.

He was killed in a US drone strike Friday near Baghdad international airport ordered by Trump, who accused the general of planning an imminent attack on American diplomats and troops in Iraq.

AFP

Turkey’s Syria Offensive Must ‘End Now’, Says Iran

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gestures during a press conference in Tehran. 
ATTA KENARE / AFP

 

Key Damascus ally Iran on Tuesday renewed its call on Ankara to end a deadly assault on northeastern Syria, as Turkey pressed a cross-border offensive against Kurdish forces.

“The imperative now is to end the incursion into #Syria,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter.

Iran had on Thursday called for an immediate halt to the offensive, launched on October 9 after the United States announced it would withdraw all its troops from the area.

Since then, Syria’s massively outgunned Kurds have forged a deal with Damascus, allowing regime soldiers to redeploy in the Kurd-controlled region for the first time since 2012.

Despite international outcry over its assault, Turkey has vowed to pursue its offensive, slamming the “dirty deal” between President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and Kurdish forces.

AFP

Nuclear Deal: US Is Playing With Fire – Iran

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gestures during a press conference in Tehran. ATTA KENARE / AFP

 

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned Monday that the United States is “playing with fire,” echoing remarks by President Donald Trump as the two sides are locked in a standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program.

The United States quit an international deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program last year, hitting Tehran with crippling sanctions.

Tensions have since soared, with the US calling off airstrikes against Iran at the last minute after Tehran downed an American drone, and Washington blaming the Islamic republic for a series of attacks on tanker ships.

“I think the United States is playing with fire,” Zarif told NBC News.

READ ALSO: Trump Pushes For Review Of Google’s Ties To China

Iran announced last week that it had enriched uranium past the 3.67 per cent limit set by the nuclear deal, and has also surpassed the 300-kilogram cap on enriched uranium reserves.

But “it can be reversed within hours,” Zarif told the channel, adding: “We are not about to develop nuclear weapons. Had we wanted to develop nuclear weapons, we would have been able to do it (a) long time ago.”

Zarif’s comments came as the United States imposed unusually harsh restrictions on his movements during a visit to the United Nations.

Weeks after the United States threatened sanctions against Zarif, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington issued him a visa but forbade him from moving beyond six blocks of Iran’s UN mission in Midtown Manhattan.

“US diplomats don’t roam around Tehran, so we don’t see any reason for Iranian diplomats to roam freely around New York City, either,” Pompeo told The Washington Post.

UN ‘concerns’ 

No US diplomats are based in Iran as the two countries broke off relations in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the Western-backed shah.

“Foreign Minister Zarif, he uses the freedoms of the United States to come here and spread malign propaganda,” the top US diplomat said.

UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters that the UN Secretariat was in contact with the US and Iranian missions about Zarif’s travel restrictions and “has conveyed its concerns to the host country.”

The United States, as host of the United Nations, has an agreement to issue visas promptly to foreign diplomats on UN business and only rarely declines.

Washington generally bars diplomats of hostile nations from travelling outside a 40-kilometre (25-mile) radius of New York’s Columbus Circle.

Zarif is scheduled to speak Wednesday at the UN Economic and Social Council, which is holding a high-level meeting on sustainable development.

Despite the restrictions, the decision to admit Zarif is the latest sign that Trump’s administration appears to be retreating from its vow to place sanctions on him as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on June 24 that sanctions against Zarif would come later that week.

Critics questioned the legal rationale for targeting Zarif and noted that sanctions would all but end the possibility of dialogue — which Trump has said is his goal.

Zarif said in an interview with The New York Times he would not be affected by sanctions as he owns no assets outside of Iran.

AFP

‘Never Threaten An Iranian’, Foreign Minister Condemns Trump’s Comments

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gestures during a press conference in Tehran. 
ATTA KENARE / AFP

 

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Monday the “genocidal taunts” of US President Donald Trump will not “end Iran”, amid a spike in tensions between the two countries.

“Iranians have stood tall for millennia while aggressors all gone. Economic terrorism and genocidal taunts won’t ‘end Iran’,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.

“Never threaten an Iranian. Try respect — it works!” he added.

The comments by Iran’s top diplomat follow an ominous warning by Trump, who on Sunday suggested the Islamic republic would be destroyed if it attacked US interests.

READ ALSO: If Tehran Attacks, It Will Be ‘Official End Of Iran’ – Trump

“If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again,” Trump tweeted.

Relations between Washington and Tehran plummeted a year ago when Trump pulled out of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and imposed tough sanctions.

Tensions have risen further this month with Washington announcing further economic measures against Tehran, before deploying a carrier group and B-52 bombers to the Gulf over unspecified Iranian “threats”.

The claim has been met with widespread scepticism outside the United States.

The Trump administration last week ordered non-essential diplomatic staff out of Iraq, citing threats from Iranian-backed Iraqi armed groups.

On Sunday a rocket was fired into the Green Zone of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, which houses government offices and embassies including the US mission. It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack.

AFP

Iran Foreign Minister Zarif Announces Resignation On Instagram

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gestures during a press conference in Tehran.  ATTA KENARE / AFP

 

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was the lead negotiator in a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with major powers, has abruptly tendered his resignation, although there was no sign President Hassan Rouhani had accepted it.

Zarif offered an apology for his “shortcomings” in the unexpected message on Instagram on Monday, with prominent members of parliament immediately calling for Rouhani not to accept the resignation.

Zarif, 59, has served as Rouhani’s foreign minister since August 2013 and has been under constant pressure from hardliners who opposed his policy of detente with the West.

“I apologise for my inability to continue serving and for all the shortcomings during my term in office,” Zarif said in the message posted on his verified Instagram account.

He thanked Iranians and “respected officials” for their support “in the last 67 months”.

READ ALSO: Top Vatican Cardinal Pell Found Guilty Of Child Sex Abuse

The resignation was confirmed by an informed source, however, in a tweet, Rouhani’s chief of staff strongly denied reports it had been accepted by the president.

Zarif gave no explanation for his resignation.

But it came hours after a surprise visit to Tehran by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has been a major recipient of Iranian aid during his country’s nearly eight-year civil war, and Iran’s Entekhab news agency reported the two appeared to be linked.

According to the semi-official ISNA news agency, Zarif was not present at any of Assad’s meetings with Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Rouhani.

Entekhab said it tried to reach Zarif and received the following message: “After the photos of today’s meetings, Javad Zarif no longer has any credibility in the world as the foreign minister!”

In an interview with the conservative Jomhoori Eslami daily published on Tuesday, Zarif said: “everything will be lost, when there is no trust in the manager of foreign policy.”

 Support petition 

Mostafa Kavakebian, a reformist MP, was among those urging Rouhani not to accept Zarif’s resignation.

“Undoubtedly the Iranian people, government and state will not benefit from this resignation,” he said.

“A great majority of MPs demand that the president never accept this resignation,” he said in a tweet.

ISNA reported that a petition in support of Zarif had been signed by a majority of MPs.

Top US diplomat Mike Pompeo dismissed his counterpart’s announcement, tweeting: “We note @JZarif’s resignation. We’ll see if it sticks.

“Either way, he and @HassanRouhani are just front men for a corrupt religious mafia.

“We know @khamenei_ir makes all final decisions. Our policy is unchanged — the regime must behave like a normal country and respect its people,” he said. referring to Iran’s supreme leader.

The head of parliament’s influential national security and foreign policy committee told ISNA how a planned trip to Geneva with Zarif on Monday afternoon had been cancelled at the last minute without explanation.

“I suddenly got a text message saying the trip has been cancelled,” Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh told ISNA, adding that this was not the first time Zarif had resigned.

“That he has done so publicly this time means that he wants the president to accept it this time,” he added.

 ‘Daggers from behind’ 

Zarif’s standing within Iran’s political establishment took a hit when US President Donald Trump abandoned the nuclear accord last year and reimposed crippling unilateral sanctions.

The faceoff between the minister and his critics only intensified as time passed, with Zarif saying his main concerns throughout the nuclear talks had been about pressure from inside Iran.

“We were more worried by the daggers that were struck from behind than the negotiations,” he told the Jomhoori Eslami newspaper in a February 2 interview.

“The other side never managed to wear me down during the negotiations… but internal pressure wore me down both during and after the talks.”

The latest point of contention between Zarif and hardliners has been the implementation of the Financial Action Task Force’s requirements regarding money laundering in Iran.

The rift on the issue, which has been on of the obstacles to Zarif’s efforts to maintain European trade and investment despite the renewed US sanctions on Iran, has pitched the government against parliament and the Expediency Council, a key arbitration body.

In his interview with Jomhoori Eslami, Zarif said partisan disputes over foreign policy were “a deadly poison.”

On Sunday, ISNA reported that Zarif had warned the Expediency Council, it should “understand the consequences of its decision.”

His comments were swiftly seized on by ultra-conservative MPs who had made an aborted attempt to impeach him last year.

They accused him of threatening the council.

AFP

Trump Speech Violated Iran Nuclear Deal – Zarif

United States President Donald Trump’s speech outlining an aggressive new strategy against Iran violated Tehran’s nuclear agreement with world powers, said Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Trump’s virulent speech contravened three articles of the 2015 deal, Zarif said in televised remarks broadcast late on Saturday.

They include the requirement to implement the accord “in good faith” and for the US to “refrain from re-introducing or re-imposing” sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear programme.

“I have already written nine letters (to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini) listing the cases where the United States has failed to act on or delayed its commitments under the JCPOA,” Zarif said, using the technical name for the nuclear deal.

Mogherini helped negotiate the nuclear deal alongside the US, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia.

Zarif said he would write a new letter regarding Trump’s speech last Friday, and warned of a “reciprocal measure” if sanctions were reimposed.

In his speech, Trump refused to “certify” the nuclear deal and warned he would “terminate” the deal unless Congress introduced tough new sanctions against Iran’s missile and nuclear programmes, as well as its “destabilising” activities in the Middle East.

Zarif responded by saying: “Our achievements in the field of ballistics are in no way negotiable.

“We live in a region into which hundreds of billions of dollars of lethal American weapons have poured, turning it into a gunpowder storehouse… so we have the right to have defensive means,” he said.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization chief Ali Akbar Salehi said the country would no longer abide by the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty if the nuclear deal fell apart.

The protocol allows unannounced inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Iran agreed to implement it as part of the nuclear deal, without turning it into law.

“Without the nuclear agreement its application is meaningless,” Salehi told state television.

He also repeated his warning that Iran could very quickly return to the production of highly enriched uranium if the US reimposed sanctions.

“If one day, the leaders of the country conclude that the nuclear agreement is no longer to the benefit of the country and decide to resume 20 percent enrichment we can do so within four days,” he said.

Weapons-grade uranium is enriched to 90 percent, but most of the work to get there has already been done once scientists have achieved 20 percent.

AFP

Nigeria Is Learning From Iran To Diversify Its Economy – Buhari

Muhammadu Buhari, Iran, Economy President Muhammadu Buhari says that the Federal Government is understudying the experiences of countries like Iran who thrived in adversity to diversify the Nigerian economy.

He said on Monday in Abuja that his administration is working assiduously to ameliorate the challenges faced by the economy within a short period.

President Buhari made the statement while he received a special envoy from the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran at the State House, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

He said that the Iranian economy remains an inspiration for Nigeria in the deployment of technology to harness and export gas, grow food for the populace and promote entrepreneurship in education.

“The progress made by Iran within a short period of 30 years is really commendable. Within the period, you have been able to harness gas flaring, and you are now exporting. You have recorded strides in security, manufacturing, agriculture and technology.

“You have also achieved a lot in nuclear research. I must also congratulate you for successfully negotiating with America and the European countries on the development of your nuclear energy,” he said.Buhari-Iran-Envoy

A Great Economy
The President noted that Nigeria had all the potentials for growing into a great economy through more inclusive planning, consistency in government policies and commitment to the realisation of development targets.

“In Nigeria, we are learning. We are learning the hard way through hardship, and we are learning very quickly on how to explore other sectors of the economy like gas, solid minerals and agriculture for growth.

“We are grateful for your support and cooperation in opening up the Nigerian economy for diversification,” he told the envoy.

In his remark, the Iranian envoy, who is also the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said that the Iranian government would support the ongoing restructuring of the Nigerian economy.

“We are very keen to see a better and stronger relationship with Nigeria, which is the largest country in Africa and a major global player,” he said.

Zarif said he came into Nigeria with a delegation of more than 70 members of the Iranian business community who had already started discussions in investing in sectors like banking, education, scholarship, agriculture, energy, tourism and technology development.

France Carries Out Air Strikes Against ISIS

france carries air strike against isisFrance says it has carried out its first air strikes against Islamic State (ISIS)  militants in Syria.

A statement from the office of President Francois Hollande said that French planes struck targets identified during reconnaissance missions conducted over the past fortnight.

“The operation to fight the terrorist threat of ISIS was coordinated with regional partners.

“We will strike any time our national security is at stake”, it said.

In an announcement earlier this month, France cited self-defence as its rationale for planning the strikes, while ruling out ground operations.

French jets had previously carried out air strikes against its targets in neighbouring Iraq.

Meanwhile, David Cameron is to call for a new diplomatic drive to end Syria’s civil war as he meets world leaders at the United Nations in New York on Sunday.

The UK Prime Minister is expected to drop his opposition to Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, playing a role in any transitional government.

Ahead of the UN gathering, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, met with Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on Saturday to discuss Syria.

Iran Nuclear Talks Extended Seven Months After Missing Deadline

IrIranan and six world powers have given themselves seven more months to overcome the deadlock that prevented them from clinching an historic deal to resolve their 12-year dispute over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

The Chinese representative involved in negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, Cheng Jingye, had been of the opinion that talks might need to be extended, as time was running out for a deal to be struck before Monday’s deadline.

“There have been some new ideas and suggestions during the talks. The deadline of this round of negotiations is Monday. Considering that some issues are complex and important, I think more time may be needed,” said Cheng.

“We have been working closely with other sides, such as the United States, Iran and Russia in the past few days. We’ve had many discussions within our framework, and China has been playing a constructive role in moving the nuclear talks forward.”

An analyst at the Arms Control Association, Kelsey Davenport, ahead of the extension, had also expressed confidence a deal would be reached, although not necessarily before the deadline expires.

“We can be optimistic about reaching an agreement. It may not happen by November 24, but I think it shows that there is significant political will and commitment to getting a deal, even though we may need a short extension in order to get there,” he said

Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, had, however, warned ahead of the extension that although getting a deal seemed to be the major force, false hopes should not be raised.

“We’re all focussed on trying to get to a deal but I wouldn’t want to give any false hopes here. We’re still quite a long way apart and there are some very tough and complex issues to deal with but we’re all focussed on trying to get that deal done,” Hammond said.

A U.S. official revealed that U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, discussed the extension.

Speaking to reporters after the extension had been made known, U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, gave a sombre assessment, saying “real and substantial progress had been made” but added that “some significant points of disagreement” remained.

“These talks are not going to get easier just because we extend them. They’re tough. They’ve been tough. And they’re going to stay tough,” he said.

The cost of failure to reach a deal could be high. Iran’s regional foes Israel and Saudi Arabia are watching the Vienna talks nervously.

Both fear a weak deal that fails to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions, while a collapse of the negotiations would encourage Iran to become a threshold nuclear weapon state, something Israel says it would