UN chief says ‘a lot of work’ needs to be done on JCPOA revival, no ‘immediate’ solution in sight

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres says he does not expect an "immediate" revival of a 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement signed between Iran and world powers that the US unilaterally left three years later.

The UN chief made the remarks during a Thursday presser, hailing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the agreement is officially known, as “a big diplomatic victory.”

“I believe that everyone, all those who entered the JCPOA and other interested parties must work together to reduce uncertainties, to face difficulties and obstacles,” Guterres said.

The deal was initially signed between Iran and six major world states — the US, Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — in 2015 and was ratified in the form of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 shortly afterwards.

However, the US under former president Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of the JCPOA in May 2018 and reinstated the anti-Iran sanctions that had been lifted by the deal.

The Trump administration also launched what it called a maximum pressure campaign against Iran, targeting the Iranian nation with the “toughest ever” restrictive measures.

New US President Joe Biden, who was vice president when the deal was signed during the Obama administration, has said he hopes to return Washington to the deal. But new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday the US will only return to the nuclear deal once Tehran honors its nuclear commitments.

In reaction to the latest remarks by his American counterpart, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Thursday that due to the US various violations of the JCPOA, it is the United States that must take the first step to prove its commitment to the accord.

In a post on his official Twitter account, Zarif said the US "violated" the nuclear deal, "blocked food/medicine to Iranians" and "punished adherence" to UN Security Council Resolution 2231 whereas Iran "abided by JCPOA" and "only took foreseen remedial measures."

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In response to a question about the possibility of mediating a way out of the current impasse on the nuclear accord, Guterres said, “There’s a lot of work to be done,” but he emphasized that he does not expect that all issues surrounding the deal would be solve immediately.

The UN chief said the matter is “progressively moving towards a situation where we can have an agreement that is essential for peace and stability in the [Persian] Gulf and the world.”

He expressed regret that the landmark deal has been “called into question,” saying, “The JCPOA was a big diplomatic victory and an essential element for peace and stabilization in the [Persian] Gulf.”

Pointing to the US moves to withdraw from the JCPOA and reimpose sanctions on Iran, Guterres said, “It’s obvious that there are difficulties and obstacles, that there is an increased complexity because the US left and took additional measures. At the same time, Iran has taken some steps to develop its nuclear capabilities.”

As the remaining European parties failed to fulfill their end of the bargain under US pressure, Iran began in May 2019 to scale back its JCPOA commitments under Articles 26 and 36 of the accord covering Tehran’s legal rights.

Iran, however, says it will only reverse its reciprocal measures if the United States lifts its sanctions as a prelude to rejoining the JCPOA.

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