On February 2, the Council of the European Union, which consists of member states’ foreign ministers, released an outline of its views on Iran and related issues. The ministers reiterated their support for the nuclear deal and recognized that Iran had fulfilled its commitments. But they also expressed “concern at the growing tensions in the region and Iran's role in this context, including the provision of military, financial and political support to non-state actors in countries such as Syria and Lebanon.” The council also expressed concern over Iran’s ballistic missile program, problematic human rights record and involvement in assassination plots in Europe.
The E.U. Council released the conclusions immediately following its meeting with Arab League foreign ministers in Brussels, which was meant to prepare for an E.U.-Arab League summit in Egypt on February 24-25. The European Union and the Arab League reportedly could not agree on a joint statement for the foreign minister’s meeting, according to the Associated Press.
On February 5, Iran rejected the E.U. points in a statement from the Foreign Ministry. The statement criticized the conditionality of the new European mechanism for facilitating trade with Iran, launched in late January. “This is unacceptable to link the implementation of this mechanism, which is part of JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action)-related commitments, with the requirements of institutions such as FATF (Financial Action Task Force),” it said. The E.U. conclusions are below, followed by Iranian reaction.
Council of the European Union: Conclusions
1. Recalling the November 2016 Council conclusions, the European Union expresses its resolute commitment to and continued support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The JCPOA is a key element of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture and an achievement of multilateral diplomacy, endorsed unanimously by the UN Security Council through its resolution 2231.
2. The European Union welcomes Iran's continued full and effective implementation of its nuclear-related commitments, as confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in thirteen consecutive reports, including in its latest quarterly report, issued on 12 November 2018. The European Union reiterates the need for Iran to continue to implement all of its commitments, and to continue to cooperate fully and in a timely manner with the IAEA. The European Union welcomes and fully supports the work undertaken by the IAEA in monitoring Iran's implementation of the JCPOA. The EU welcomes Iran's commitment never to seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons. It acknowledges the provisional application by Iran of the Additional Protocol to its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, encouraging its ratification.
3. The European Union recognises that the lifting of sanctions constitutes an essential part of the JCPOA and deeply regrets the re-imposition of sanctions by the United States, following the latter’s withdrawal from the JCPOA. The European Union underlines the efforts undertaken to preserve economic and wider benefits for Iran as foreseen by the JCPOA. These are being intensified through the initiative by France, Germany and the United Kingdom, to operationalise the Special Purpose Vehicle, which has now been registered as a private entity, with a view to providing a positive impact on trade and economic relations with Iran, but most importantly on the lives of Iranian people. The Special Purpose Vehicle will support European economic operators engaged in legitimate trade with Iran, in accordance with EU law and with UN Security Council resolution 2231.
As recalled in the joint statement of the HR/VP with foreign ministers and finance ministers of France, Germany and United Kingdom of 2 November 2018, the resolve to complete this work is unwavering. The European Union recalls that updates to the EU’s “Blocking Statute” and the European Investment Bank’s external lending mandate to make Iran eligible entered into force on 7 August 2018.
4. The European Union emphasizes its support for the development of EU-Iran relations in areas of common interest as outlined in the Joint Statement agreed by the HRVP and the Iranian Foreign Minister in April 2016, which underpins its sectoral engagement in bilateral cooperation. This includes areas such as political dialogue, human rights, economic cooperation, trade and investment, agriculture, transport, energy and climate change, civil nuclear cooperation, environment, civil protection, science, research and innovation, education, including through university exchanges, culture, drugs, migration, regional and humanitarian.
5. The Council welcomes the progress on the necessary reforms and urges Iran to adopt and implement the necessary legislation pursuant to its commitments under the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Action Plan. The EU and is Member States are ready to continue cooperation with Iran in these areas, including by providing technical assistance for the implementation of the FATF Action Plan.
6. The Council expresses concern at the growing tensions in the region and Iran's role in this context, including the provision of military, financial and political support to non-state actors in countries such as Syria and Lebanon.
7. The Council has serious concerns regarding Iran's military involvement and continuous presence of Iranian forces in Syria. The European Union calls upon Iran to fully support the UN-led process on Syria in line with UN Security Council resolution 2254, and urges Iran to use its leverage with the Syrian regime to this end. It urges Iran as one of the Astana guarantors, together with Russia and Turkey, to ensure cessation of hostilities and unhindered, safe and sustainable humanitarian access throughout all of Syria, and particularly in Idlib.
8. Regarding Yemen, the European Union calls upon all parties in the region, including Iran, to support the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 2451 and to constructively work towards a lasting political solution to the conflict under UN leadership. The EU notes with concern the conclusions of the UN Panel of Experts on Yemen report, which found non-compliance with the arms embargo established by paragraph 14 of UNSC Resolution 2216.The European Union remains committed to continuing the existing EU-led political regional dialogue with Iran, with the aim of continuing to produce tangible results and fostering an improved regional environment. It recognises the results of the efforts which have been undertaken in the context of the current EU-led dialogue on regional issues. The EU welcomes, in this regard, Iran's public support for the UN talks in Sweden, which led to the Stockholm Agreement.
9. The Council is also gravely concerned by Iran's ballistic missile activity and calls upon Iran to refrain from these activities, in particular ballistic missile launches that are inconsistent with UN Security Council resolution 2231. Iran continues to undertake efforts to increase the range and precision of its missiles, together with increasing the number of tests and operational launches. These activities deepen mistrust and contribute to regional instability. The Council calls on Iran to take all the necessary measures to fully respect all relevant UN Security Council resolutions related to the transfer of missiles and relevant material and technology to state and non state actors in the region. In a broader context, the Council also recalls its longstanding serious concern at the regional military build-up.
10. The Council is deeply concerned by the hostile activities that Iran has conducted on the territory of several Member States and, in this context, decided to list two individuals and one entity. The European Union will continue to demonstrate unity and solidarity in this area and urges Iran to put an immediate end to such unacceptable behaviour.
11. The Council remains seriously concerned about the human rights situation in Iran. Iran continues to frequently apply the death penalty. While the Council acknowledges that the amendments made to the Anti-Narcotics Law, passed in October 2017, have so far led to a significant drop in drug-related executions, it stresses that the EU opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances and in every country. The EU underlines that the execution of juvenile offenders is in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to both of which Iran is a party.
In line with EU commitments to ensure equal rights of women and girls and persons belonging to minorities, including ethnic and religious minorities, the Council calls upon Iran to implement the relevant international treaties to which it is a party and to fully respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.
12. The Council underlines that existing tensions and distrust in the region should not be further exacerbated and calls upon Iran and all regional actors to play a constructive role in this regard and avoid unhelpful rhetoric. The Council supports a balanced, comprehensive approach with Iran, including dialogue, with a view to addressing all issues of concern, critical when there are divergences and cooperative when there is mutual interest.
—Feb. 2, 2019, on the European Council website
Iranian Foreign Ministry’s Reaction
The Islamic Republic of Iran welcomes the European Union’s positive positions on Iran, particularly those on the Iran nuclear deal or JCPOA, expressed in a statement released Monday. However, there are points and criticisms to express regarding the statement:
1. Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX):
The Islamic Republic of Iran is seriously critical of positions of the European Union in this regard. As announced before, Iran welcomes the registration of the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges. But there are natural and realistic expectations that the mechanism, introduced following delayed and inadequate efforts by the EU, goes operational accurately and quickly and covers other sectors of trade between Iran and European countries, as obliged in a May statement by the foreign ministers of Iran and the E3. For us, the economic aspects of JCPOA and its benefits for Iran are of particular importance and the implementation of obligations of European signatories to the nuclear deal could be an important criterion determining the future course of relations. This is unacceptable to link the implementation of this mechanism, which is part of JCPOA-related commitments, with the requirements of institutions such as FATF.
2. Allegations of Plots in Europe:
Raising baseless allegations that Iran has designed or carried out terrorist plots in Europe was baseless and surprising in the first place. Raising such empty allegations and expressing concerns at a time when notorious terrorist and criminal groups who are freely active in Europe is not only non-constructive but is in line with the goals of enemies who want relations between Iran and Europe to sour. The Islamic Republic of Iran, as one of the biggest victims of terrorist attacks who has been a pioneer infight against groups such as ISIS who even threaten Europe’s security, expects the EU to deal with these allegations seriously, while holding a realistic view and putting aside double standards.
3. Iran’s Defence Activities:
As announced before, Iran’s defence activities are only defensive, deterrent and home-grown, and this issue has never been included in the agenda of our talks with other countries. We firmly believe that raising such issues is not constructive and useful and not in line with the security interests of the region and real interests of Europe, considering the current circumstances in the region and clear threats against Iran’s national security.
4. Regional Issues:
The Islamic Republic of Iran strongly advises European countries to hold a realistic view about incidents and issues in the region and not to believe the suggestions of elements who are against peace, stability and security of the region and development of relations between governments and nations. The Islamic Republic of Iran always supports dialogue, interaction and political solutions for settling regional crises.
5. Human Rights:
The Islamic Republic of Iran condemns the use of human rights as a political tool against independent countries. The behaviour of Iran in the past four decades shows Iran’s seriousness in promoting human rights and fulfilling international commitments through constructive cooperation and dialogue-based mechanisms. Positive measures and interactions of Iran with the UN’s human rights bodies and related international institutions indicate Iran’s commitment to continuing constructive cooperation. Expressing concern about the conditions of human rights in Iran, while it is clear to everyone that Iran’s human rights conditions are immaculate compared to that of others in the region, is an attempt to divert public opinion and an insistence on a wrong approach that can deepen distrust in bilateral relations.
In a region where the main crises are the massacre of children at the hands of the Zionist regime and the crimes of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen (carried out by conventional and non-conventional weapons provided by western governments including some EU members), such positions are undoubtedly non-constructive and rejected in the world’s eyes. The silence of the EU regarding widespread violations of human rights in its member countries, including violations of basic rights of refugees and immigrants, the growth of alt-right tendencies, and racist attacks against ethnic and religious minorities, particularly Muslims (due to hate speeches by European officials and violent moves by extremists), contradicts EU’s claims that they are advocating human rights.
The Islamic Republic of Iran seeks constructive dialogue with the EU, based on mutual interests and respect. The history of dialogues and cooperation between Iran and the EU, particularly the experience gained in the past three years, shows that there are great capacities for developing relations between the two sides. We hope that the fulfilment of Europe’s commitments would prepare the ground for deepening relations as soon as possible.
—Feb. 5, 2019, statement published on the Iranian Foreign Ministry website