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Russia's UN Envoy Strongly Opposes U.S. Attempt To Extend Arms Embargo On Iran

Vassily Nebenzia, Russia's ambassador to the UN (file photo)
Vassily Nebenzia, Russia's ambassador to the UN (file photo)

Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations says Moscow will oppose any attempts by the United States to extend the arms embargo on Iran and reimpose UN sanctions against Tehran.

Vassily Nebenzia’s comments on May 12 made clear that the United States will have difficulty extending the embargo past its expiration in October through the UN Security Council, where Russia has veto power.

The United States is seeking to indefinitely extend the UN embargo on conventional arms sales, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the United States will use all means available to achieve that goal.

A draft UN resolution that has circulated among diplomats would strike the expiration of the arms embargo from the council resolution that endorsed the 2015 nuclear deal between six major powers and Iran, according to U.S. officials and UN diplomats.

Nebenzia said the arms embargo is “a byproduct” of the nuclear deal, which prevents Tehran from developing nuclear weapons in return for sanctions relief. In Russia’s view, it’s clear that it expires in October, he said.

Nebenzia spoke with reporters on a videoconference as the United Nations observes social-distancing restrictions implemented to help control the spread of the coronavirus

He called "ridiculous" the U.S. argument that it is still a member of the Iran nuclear deal two years after it left the pact, just so Washington could trigger a so-called snapback that would return all UN sanctions on Tehran.

“To trigger a snapback, you have to be a participant of the JCPOA, and the U.S. proudly announced on May 8, 2018, that they withdrew from the JCPOA and closed the door behind,” Nebenzia said.

Nebenzia also predicted that triggering the snapback would end the JCPOA and inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Iran.

Although President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal, the United States maintains that it retains the right to invoke a sanctions snapback that the deal envisaged in the event of “significant nonperformance” by Iran.

That position rests on a State Department legal argument that although the United States is no longer in the nuclear deal, it remains an original participant under the terms of the Security Council resolution that enshrined it.

That 2015 resolution names the United States as a participant, but numerous diplomats in addition to Russia have said the U.S. argument is specious because the United States has demonstrably withdrawn.

Nebenzia also quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who wrote a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on May 12 saying the United States is “in grave violation” of the 2015 resolution for nonperformance and “is blatantly attempting illegal paths to reverse the resolution in actual contempt for well-established principles of international law.”

By withdrawing from the JCPOA , the United States “has lost any right,” he quoted Zarif as saying, adding that he subscribes fully to Zarif’s words.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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