Part 3: Europe, Russia and China on U.S. Moves

Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – the five other parties to the 2015 nuclear deal – largely welcomed the Biden administration’s three moves to jumpstart diplomacy with Tehran on its nuclear program. On February 18, the United States said it would meet with Iran and the five major world powers to chart a way forward. It also rescinded the Trump administration’s letter invoking U.N. "snapback" sanctions on Iran. And it removed Trump’s stringent travel restrictions on Iranian diplomats in New York based at Iran’s U.N. mission.

    “We expressly welcome and support this! Now the Iranian leaders must also show that they are serious,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas wrote on Twitter on February 18.

      Russia was less enthusiastic but said that the moves were steps in the right direction. “Abandoning calls for sanctions is a good thing in itself,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on February 19. “However, it is precisely the restoration of the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or the 2015 nuclear deal] that is important.”

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      China reiterated that the “unconditional” return of the United States to the deal was the key to breaking the deadlock. But it welcomed the “positive gesture by all parties to push forward the political settlement process,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on February 19. The following are reactions from the five world powers. 
       

      Germany

      Foreign Minister Heiko Maas

      In an address to the U.N. sponsored Conference on Disarmament on Feb. 22, 2021: “It is in Iran’s best interest to change course now, before the agreement is damaged beyond repair.”

      Germany expects “full compliance, full transparency and full cooperation” from Iran with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

      In tweets on Feb. 18, 2021: “Iran is taking even larger steps away from its JCPOA obligations and is now also threatening the termination of its information and transparency obligations.”

      “This is not just playing with fire, it comes at an inopportune time. The U.S. is giving diplomacy a chance. We expressly welcome and support this! Now the Iranian leaders must also show that they are serious.”

       

      Britain

      Minister of State for Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly

      In comments to the BBC on Feb. 19, 2021: “I don’t think that we should be sending a signal that we are going to overlook this non-compliance or just brush it under the carpet.”

      “This is in Iran’s hands, they are the ones breaching the conditions of the JCPOA, they are the ones that can do something about this, and they should come back into compliance.”

       

      France

       

      Russia

      Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov

      Remarks to reporters on Feb. 19, 2021: “Abandoning calls for sanctions is a good thing in itself.”

      “However, it is precisely the restoration of the JCPOA that is important.”

      “We are a country that has repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for Iran, and we have always expressed our regret over the fact that the United States had pulled out of the JCPOA.”

      “We continue to be supporters of this document and call on everyone to do their utmost for its effective implementation.”

       

      Ambassador to Vienna-based international organizations Mikhail Ulyanov

      Remarks on Feb. 19, 2021: “Everything depends on political efforts towards resuming full implementation of the nuclear deal. The latest positive things in this context are statements by a high-ranking official from the European External Action Service on the readiness to organize a meeting of the current members of the Iran nuclear deal and the United States. The U.S. Department of State has already said publicly that in case such an invitation is issued, it will accept it. It inspires certain optimism.”

       

      China

      Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin

      At a daily press conference on Feb. 24, 2021: "On February 10 and 22, 2021, Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu had phone conversations with U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley at the latter's invitation, and the two sides had an in-depth exchange of views on the Iranian nuclear issue. Vice Foreign Minister Ma stated China's position and concerns on the Iranian nuclear issue, stressing that the United States should return to the JCPOA and lift sanctions on Iran as soon as possible, which holds the key to breaking the current deadlock. It also need to take concrete actions to address Iran's concerns, enhance mutual trust with Iran, in order to pave the way for holding an informal meeting between JCPOA participants and the United States to discuss a possible roadmap for the synchronized and reciprocal return to full compliance with the JCPOA by the United States and Iran. Both sides said they will remain committed to political settlement and stand ready to step up dialogue with other parties to ensure the JCPOA will return to the right track at an early date. The two sides also agreed to stay in communication and coordination.

      "On February 22, Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu also had a phone conversation with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi. Vice Foreign Minister Ma said the JCPOA participants should hold the meeting with the United States as soon as possible to consolidate the current good momentum. The two sides stressed that the United States should return to the JCPOA and lift sanctions on Iran as soon as possible, which holds the key to breaking the current deadlock. Relevant parties should seize the opportunity, promote the return of the Iranian nuclear deal to the right track and the political and diplomatic settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue to uphold peace and stability in the Middle East...China will continue to preserve the JCPOA, work for the resumption of full and effective compliance at an early date so as to better safeguard peace and stability in the Middle East.

      "The Iranian nuclear situation is at a critical juncture, presenting both opportunities and challenges. China always holds that U.S. return to the JCPOA and lifting of sanctions on Iran holds the key to breaking the deadlock. China appreciates the reaching of a temporary bilateral technical understanding on the safeguards issue between Iran and the IAEA and noticed that both sides have spoken highly of this result. China hopes that the relevant understanding could be faithfully implemented and urges other parties to play a constructive role in this process."

       

      Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying

      At a daily press conference on Feb. 19, 2021: “The Iranian nuclear situation is at a critical stage and there is a rare opportunity to bring the JCPOA back on track. China believes the unconditional return of the United States to the JCPOA as soon as possible is the key to breaking the deadlock. To this end, we've made active efforts toward holding an international meeting attended by JCPOA participants and the United States to come up with a roadmap for U.S. resumption of compliance through negotiations. We are in close communication with all parties on relevant issues.

      “China welcomes the positive gesture by all parties to push forward the political settlement process of the Iranian nuclear issue through diplomatic dialogue. We also call on relevant parties to step up efforts to implement the consensus reached at the foreign ministers' meeting last December and bring the JCPOA back on track at an early date.”

       

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