Joint Commission discusses practical solutions to Iran deal

01 July 2019

The Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has tasked experts to look into practical solutions for Iran’s export of low-enriched uranium (LEU) and heavy water. Participants in its meeting last week have also announced the progress of a special purpose vehicle - known as INSTEX - to enable European businesses to maintain non-dollar trade with Iran without breaking US sanctions.

The JCPOA was signed in July 2015 by Iran and the E3/EU+3 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the USA - also referred to as the P5+1 - plus the European Union) and implemented in January 2016. Under its terms, Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment activities, eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium and limit its stockpile of low-enriched uranium over the subsequent 15 years.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on 8 May that unless world powers protected Iran's economy from US sanctions within 60 days, Iran would start enriching uranium beyond permitted limits. In response, the High Representative of the European Union and the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany and the UK said in a joint statement that they remained “fully committed to the preservation and full implementation” of the JCPOA.

Under the terms of the JCPOA, Iran is only permitted to hold 300 kilograms of enriched uranium, but the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran announced on 17 June that Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium would exceed that amount by 27 June. Iranian media have today reported that Iran has breached the limit - Isna news agency cites the country's foreign minister as confirming the 300kg (660lb) cap had been exceeded.

Continued implementation

The Joint Commission meeting was called on 28 June with the intention of ensuring the continued implementation of the JCPOA in all its aspects and discussing ways to tackle challenges arising from the withdrawal and re-imposition of sanctions by the USA on Iran, as well as recent announcements by Iran regarding the implementation of its nuclear commitments. The meeting was chaired on behalf of EU High Representative Federica Mogherini by European External Action Service Secretary General Helga Schmid and was attended by the E3+2 (China, France, Germany, Russia and the UK) and Iran.

Sergey Ryabkov, deputy minister of foreign affairs of the Russian Federation, said in a statement on the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website that he had stressed at the meeting that the USA's withdrawal from the JCPOA, and "the subsequent steps to undermine its normal implementation" in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, had "dealt a serious blow" to regional and international security.

Ryabkov said the meeting's participants had been "entrusted to work out practical measures that would allow Iran to export enriched uranium and heavy water despite US sanctions".

He added that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was highlighted during the meeting as the only organisation authorised to verify Iran's compliance with its obligations. "It is of fundamental importance," he said, "that the Agency continues to confirm Iran's careful compliance with the terms of the 'nuclear deal'."

The Joint Commission also said that, in parallel, they will continue to intensify efforts as regards sanctions lifting by convening specialised and focused experts discussions in line with the commitments under paragraph 8 of the Joint Statement of its meeting at the ministerial level on 6 July 2018. This is aimed at providing practical solutions in order to maintain the normalisation of trade and economic relations with Iran.

In a public statement after the meeting last week, which was published by, among others, the UK's Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Schmid said the JCPOA "remains a key element of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture" and that, "in light of the recent tensions", its preservation continues to be essential for regional stability and security.

"In view of recent concerning statements and developments, participants recalled the key importance of continued full and effective implementation of the agreement by all sides," she said. "At the same time, participants recalled that the lifting of sanctions is an essential part of the agreement and reviewed their respective commitments in this regard. They also took stock of respective efforts aimed at mitigating the negative impact of US withdrawal and re-imposed US sanctions, actions for which they have repeatedly expressed deep regret."

Progress despite sanctions

She referred to progress with INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) - a special-purpose vehicle France, Germany and the UK established in January to facilitate non-dollar trade with Iran.

The three countries informed participants in the Joint Commission meeting that INSTEX had been made operational and available to all EU Member States and that the first transactions are being processed. They also expressed the intention to expand its use by other European Union states with the prospect of opening INSTEX to third countries.

She also said that the meeting’s participants had noted good progress on the modernisation of the Arak research reactor, and the stable isotope production project as part of the conversion of the Fordow facility, as foreseen in the JCPOA.

The IAEA reported on 18 January 2016 - 'implementation day' for the JCPOA - that since the agreement had been adopted in October 2015, Iran had reduced its stockpiles of enriched uranium to agreed levels, including its shipment of 11 tonnes (25,000 pounds) of low-enriched uranium materials to Russia. It also said that other measures included the removal of numerous centrifuges and related infrastructure from its uranium enrichment plants at Natanz and Fordow, and the removal of the core from the Arak heavy water reactor which has been rendered inoperable by filling openings into the calandria with concrete.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News