Russia rejects US drive for permanent Iran arms embargo

June 8, 2020 GMT

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia’s foreign minister is accusing the Trump administration of unleashing a politically motivated campaign against Iran and is calling for “universal condemnation” of the U.S. attempt to get the U.N. Security Council to impose a permanent arms embargo against the Islamic Republic.

Sergey Lavrov said the United States withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and six major powers and now has no legal right to try to use the U.N. resolution endorsing the deal to indefinitely continue the arms embargo, which is set to expire on Oct. 18.

In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council circulated Monday, the Russian minister said statements by U.S. State Department officials that the Trump administration doesn’t plan to resume its commitments under the nuclear deal but plans to invoke rights allegedly deriving from the resolution endorsing it are “ridiculous and irresponsible.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft have said extending the arms embargo against Iran is a top priority for the United States.

Craft told a press briefing Friday that she had shared a draft Security Council resolution imposing an indefinite arms embargo on Iran with Russia and with Western council allies Britain, France, Germany and Estonia, and hopes to give the draft to the rest of the 15-member council “pretty soon.”

But she said first she wants to talk to ambassadors and “make sure everyone understands that we are committed to making certain that the U.N. Security Council does not allow this to expire in October.”

“What I say to people is on Oct. 18 ... do we want Russia selling weapons to Iran? Do we want China selling? Do we want anyone providing or selling weapons to Iran?,” Craft asked. “I’m stressing that Russia and China need to join a global consensus on Iran’s conduct. This is about not only the people of Iran but the people in the Middle East.”

But Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia has already make clear Moscow’s opposition to a Security Council resolution extending Iran’s arms embargo, which Russia could veto. He also said the U.S. has “no right” following its withdrawal from the nuclear deal to use the “snap back” provision in the 2015 council resolution, which automatically restores all U.N. sanctions against Iran that had been lifted or eased if the nuclear deal is violated.

Craft disagreed, saying the resolution “makes clear that the US retains the right” to use the “snap back” provision.

Tensions between Iran and the U.S. have escalated since President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018 and re-imposed crippling U.S. sanctions. A year ago, the U.S. sent thousands more troops, long-range bombers and an aircraft carrier to the Middle East in response to what it called a growing threat of Iranian attacks on U.S. interests in the region.

The five other powers that signed the nuclear deal — Russia, China, United Kingdom, France and Germany — remain committed to it, saying the agreement is key to continuing inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency and preventing Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons.

Lavrov’s letter went further in explaining Moscow’s strong opposition to an indefinite arms embargo and U.S. use of the “snap back” provision.

“We are proceeding on the basis that the United Nations should not become hostage to the political situation in the United States, which has decided to withdraw from the plan,” he said. “There are no valid grounds for raising in the Security Council the issue of an arms embargo against Iran.”

Lavrov said the nuclear deal and the Security Council resolution “form a single whole” and can’t be considered separately. And under Article 25 of the U.N. Charter, “the United States side is obliged to carry out the decisions of the Security Council, rather than undermine them through its unlawful actions,” he said.

Lavrov said international courts have held “that a party which disowns or does not fulfill its own obligations cannot be recognized as retaining the rights which it claims to derive from a relationship.”

The United States, having violated the Security Council resolution and declined to implement the 2015 nuclear agreement has therefore “forfeited the possibility” of using the “snap back” provisions, he said.

Lavrov called on the U.S. to stop undermining the nuclear agreement and the U.N. resolution.

He said Russia and “other responsible members of the international community will continue to make every effort” to preserve the nuclear deal.

“The United States must recognize that there are neither legal nor other grounds for its policy of using Security Council mandates to pursue its own selfish interests,” Lavrov said.