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JCPOA alive because of Iran, E3 did ‘zilch’ to maintain deal: FM Zarif

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

Iran’s foreign minister says since its inception in July 2015, the three European signatories to the landmark nuclear deal with Iran have done nothing to protect it and it is only alive because of Iran’s efforts to maintain the accord.

Mohammad Javad Zarif’s remarks came in a Sunday tweet after three European signatories to the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), accused Iran of planning to produce uranium metal-based fuel has military implications and also after his French counterpart, Jean Yves Le Drian, claimed that Iran "is in the process of acquiring nuclear (weapons) capacity."

In a statement on Saturday, the three European sides – the United Kingdom, Germany and France – claimed that Iran’s move to begin work on uranium metal-based fuel contravened the JCPOA, saying that under the deal, Iran had committed to not engaging in production of uranium metal or conducting research and development on uranium metallurgy for 15 years.

“We strongly urge Iran to halt this activity, and return to compliance with its JCPOA commitments without further delay if it is serious about preserving the deal,” the trio’s statement added.

However, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) on Saturday rejected the accusation and urged the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the European trio to avoid creating any “misunderstanding” surrounding the issue, stressing that the Islamic Republic had not yet “presented the design information questionnaire (DIQ) of the uranium metal factory” to the UN nuclear agency.

In response to the claim made by the three European parties to the multilateral nuclear agreement, Zarif tweeted, “E3 leaders—who rely on signature of OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) functionaries to carry out their obligations under JCPOA—have done ZILCH to maintain JCPOA.”

E3 leaders—who rely on signature of OFAC functionaries to carry out their obligations under JCPOA—have done ZILCH to maintain JCPOA.

Remember @EmmanuelMacron's stillborn initiative or UK non-payment of court-ordered debt?

JCPOA is alive because of Iran and not E3, @JY_LeDrian.

— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 17, 2021

He emphasized that “JCPOA is alive because of Iran and not E3.”

Zarif also addressed the remarks made in an interview made by his French counterpart in a Saturday interview with the Journal du Dimanche

In that interview, Le Drian claimed that the campaign of "maximum pressure" against Tehran chosen by the administration of the outgoing US President Donald Trump did not succeed and "only increased the risk and the threat,". adding, “This has to stop because Iran and - I say this clearly - is in the process of acquiring nuclear (weapons) capacity." 

US President Trump unilaterally pulled Washington out of the JCPOA in May 2018, and unleashed the “toughest ever” sanctions against the Islamic Republic in defiance of global criticism.

Following its much-criticized exit, Washington has been attempting to prevent the remaining signatories –  the EU3 plus China and Russia – from abiding by their commitments and thus kill the historic agreement, which is widely viewed as a fruit of international diplomacy.

Iran remained fully compliant with the JCPOA for an entire year, waiting for the co-signatories to fulfill their end of the bargain by offsetting the impacts of American bans on the Iranian economy.

In response to the US' unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA, Tehran has so far rowed back on its nuclear commitments five times in compliance with Articles 26 and 36 of the nuclear deal, but stressed that its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as Europe finds practical ways to shield the mutual trade from the US sanctions.

In his second tweet, in apparent allusion to Le Drian's remarks, Zarif pointed to France’s arms sales to Saudi war criminals, exhorting his French counterpart to “avoid absurd nonsense about Iran.”

Dear colleague: You kick-started your cabinet career with arms sales to Saudi war criminals. Avoid absurd nonsense about Iran.

Reality check: YOU are destabilizing OUR region. Stop protecting criminals who chainsaw their critics and use YOUR arms to slaughter children in Yemen.

— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 17, 2021

The Iranian foreign minister emphasized that France is “destabilizing” West Asia, saying, “Stop protecting criminals who chainsaw their critics and use YOUR arms to slaughter children in Yemen.”

By mentioning “criminals who chainsaw their critics,” Zarif made a reference to the gruesome killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Khashoggi, a former advocate of the Saudi royal court who later became a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed and then dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, after he entered the premises to collect documents for his planned wedding.

The Washington Post, for which Khashoggi was a columnist, reported in November 2018 that the CIA had concluded that bin Salman personally ordered his killing.

The Saudi crown prince accepted responsibility a year after the murder and said, “It happened under my watch.”

On the other hand, investigative website Disclose published leaked documents in 2019 that indicated Saudi Arabia was using French weapons, including tanks and laser-guided missile systems, against civilians in Yemen's war.

Faced with strong criticism, Macron admitted that the weapons were indeed being used in the war; but only within Saudi Arabia's border.

"I would like to say here that what we reiterated was the guarantee for them (the arms) not be used against civilian populations," he said.

Amnesty International has condemned France's weapons sales to Saudi Arabia despite the kingdom's deadly war on Yemen, saying Paris cannot be trusted on claims that the weapons are not being used against civilians.

Aymeric Elluin, Amnesty's advocacy officer for weapons and international justice, said Macron's words were no longer trustworthy because France was constantly changing its discourse.

"We were told the arms were only used for defensives purposes, and all of a sudden we're being told 'we never said there weren't any French weapons being used in Yemen, we said we didn't have proof that French weapons were used to kill civilians'," she said, "So, France's word is a vast gibberish, we cannot trust what they say."

Saudi Arabia and a number of its allies — mainly the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — invaded Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing a former Yemeni client regime back to power. The ongoing war has killed tens of thousands and disrupted the lives of millions by causing widespread famine as well as epidemics.

France, the third-biggest arms exporter in the world, is also among the top weapons exporters to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

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