TEHRAN (Iran News) – European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says all parties, including the U.S., must fully implement the 2015 nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“As coordinator of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, I have always been clear: We must go back to full implementation of the deal, which means a return of the U.S. into the agreement with the lifting of related U.S. sanctions and Iran’s full compliance with its nuclear commitments,” Borrell said in an interview with the Arab News released on Saturday.
Borrell also said, “It is crucial to resume negotiations in Vienna as soon as possible and from where we left off on June 20.”
Iran and the remaining parties to the JCPOA started talks in April in Vienna to revive the deal from which Donald Trump withdrew and introduced the harshest sanctions in history against Iran in line with his “maximum pressure” campaign against the Islamic Republic.
The U.S., under the Joe Biden administration, was also participating in the Vienna talks indirectly.
Six rounds of talks were held until June. However, the talks failed to produce a breakthrough as the United States raised new issues not related to the original JCPOA. For example, the U.S. tried to include Iran’s missile program and its regional policies in a possible revitalization of the multilateral agreement. Moreover, the Biden administration also tried to extend the limits on Iran’s nuclear program which will be automatically lifted in the future years.
Under the JCPOA, Iran agreed to put limits on its nuclear activities in exchange for termination of economic and financial sanctions.
Borrell held talks in September with new Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian in New York, the venue of the annual United Nations General Assembly conference.
“My message to Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian in New York City was simple: Diplomacy is the solution; let’s go back to Vienna without delay,” the top European diplomat remarked.
On his view of the new Iranian government’s intention to improve relations with Persian Gulf Arab neighbors and the West, he said, “Diplomacy offers the only real path to address the open issues in the Persian Gulf and among neighbors. I cannot speak for the intentions of other governments, but I have noted more dialogue between countries in the region.”
For example, he said, “The Baghdad Conference (for Cooperation and Partnership) on August 28 and the bilateral talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran are such examples. These are welcome developments and I was happy to participate in the follow-up event to the conference in New York recently.”
Foreign Minister Abdollahian participated in the Baghdad summit in late August. The new Iranian administration has said it follows a balanced foreign policy but neighbors and regional countries are a priority.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have held at least three rounds of talks in Baghdad. The main bone of contention between the two countries is the Saudi-led war on Yemen. Iran has been pushing hard for an end to the war on Yemen since it started in March 2015.
Borrell said the EU is seeking to broker cooperation between countries bordering the Persian Gulf. He said a revitalization of the Iran nuclear deal is crucial to realize such a goal.
“The EU is ready to support the countries in the Persian Gulf region to build a shared sense of security and cooperation. In this sense, the (Iran) nuclear deal is also crucial,” Borrell noted.
He added, “I am still convinced that if we do manage to preserve the JCPOA and ensure its full implementation, it can become a stepping stone toward addressing other shared concerns, including those related to regional security.”
Iran has proposed the Hormuz Peace Endeavor (HOPE) for the stabilizing the Persian Gulf region. Former Iranian President Hassan Rouhani proposed the Hormuz peace initiative during a speech at the UN General Assembly in September 2019.
“I should like to invite all the countries directly affected by the developments in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz to the Coalition for Hope meaning Hormuz Peace Endeavor,” Rouhani told world leaders who had gathered in New York.
In April 2021 during a visit to Qatar, former Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted “HOPE initiative is Iran’s approach to the region.” He stressed, “Neighbors are Iran’s priority.”
On the AUKUS, the recently formed trilateral security pact between Australia, the UK and the U.S, that was badly received by some in the EU, Borrell also said, “There was clear disappointment in Europe about the way this issue was handled. We are friends and allies. And friends and allies talk to each other.”
The deal was first signed between France and Australia. France called the cancellation of the deal without consultation with Paris a “stab in the back”.
“It’s a stab in the back. We had established a trusting relationship with Australia, and this trust was betrayed,” French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a Franceinfo interview in mid-September. Le Drian added he was “angry and very bitter about this break up,” adding that he had spoken to his Australian counterpart days ago and received no serious indication of the move.
The EU sides with France in the showdown with the U.S. and Australia.
Since the United States is going to provide nuclear-weapons-grade nuclear fuel to Australia for construction of submarines, security and nuclear experts have warned about possible nuclear arms proliferation.
“Since the announcement of AUKUS, we have talked to our U.S. partners. I had a good meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last month in New York City. We now consider this situation clarified. Proof of this is the joint statement between (French) President Macron and U.S. President Biden, in which the U.S. acknowledged that the situation would have benefited from open consultations among allies,” Borrell remarked.
The European chief diplomat also said, “These recent events also clearly underline the strength of European unity and remind us once again of the need to reflect on how to build, strengthen and advance European strategic autonomy.”
He suggested “Europe must be more united in terms of security and defense. If the European Union pooled its defense capabilities, and avoided overlaps, we would be a lot more efficient in many of the world’s crises.”
The United States’ chaotic and scandalous military withdrawal from Afghanistan has created an image of the West as uncoordinated, divided and unreliable.
On a question on whether the Afghanistan fiasco proved that Europe should focus on its defense capabilities rather than relying on the U.S., he said, “Certainly, Afghanistan has shown in a striking way that deficiencies in EU capacity to act autonomously come at a price.”
Borrell also responded to major issues concerning West Asia and Central Asia, particularly those related to Yemen and Afghanistan.
“I think we all are interested in the stability, security and well-being of our own citizens and our neighbors. This should be a common objective of all our efforts and cooperation.”
He said the international community is seeking an end to the war on Yemen.
“We want to see an end to the fighting and to the suffering of the Yemeni people. I will engage thoroughly on Yemen during my (Riyadh) visit.”
Borrell, whose official title is High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, also said Afghanistan must not become “exporter of instability, terrorism and migration flows.”
“There is a broad international consensus that the country cannot become an exporter of instability, terrorism and migration flows. And it is the countries in the region who are affected first by any negative spillover of the situation (in Afghanistan). This is why the EU tries to engage and coordinate its engagement and activities with partners in affected regions. Big challenges can be effectively and sustainably solved only by joint efforts.”
Iran has been hosting hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees since the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in late 1979. Iran has been bearing the brunt of refugee floods from Afghanistan despite Iraq’s war against Iran in the 1980s when Saddam Hussein was ruling Iraq and the illegal and suffocating sanctions on the country imposed by the United States.
As a main victim of instability and war in Afghanistan, Iran has been insisting on formation of an inclusive government in the Central Asian country with the involvement of all ethnic and religious groups.