News 15 January 2020

Europeans trigger JCPOA dispute mechanism

In a move aimed at salvaging the increasingly troubled Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (‘JCPOA’), better known as the Iran nuclear deal, France, Germany and the UK this week formally triggered the deal’s dispute mechanism.

In doing so, the three nations formally accused Iran of violating the terms of the deal. In a joint statement, the French, German and British foreign ministers said their objective was to continue to work within the JCPOA framework rather than abandoning it in light of the US’s 2018 withdrawal and Iran’s subsequent rollback of its commitments.

The foreign ministers said they triggered the dispute mechanism ‘in good faith with the overarching objective of preserving the JCPOA and in the sincere hope of finding a way forward to resolve the impasse through constructive diplomatic dialogue, while preserving the agreement and remaining within its framework. In doing so, our three countries are not joining a campaign to implement maximum pressure against Iran. Our hope is to bring Iran back into full compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA.’

The dispute resolution process could take as little as 15 days, or up to 30 if extended by consensus, and could ultimately result in the re-imposition of sanctions on Iran.

Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif dismissed the move, writing on Twitter that ‘For 20 months, the E3 – following UK appeasement policy – has bowed to US diktat. … E3 can save JCPOA but not by appeasing the bully & pressuring the complying party[.] Rather it should muster the courage to fulfill its own obligations.’

In their statement, the three countries said they had upheld their JCPOA obligations: ‘In addition to the lifting of all sanctions, required by our commitments under the agreement, we have worked tirelessly to support legitimate trade with Iran, including through the INSTEX special purpose vehicle.’

However, INSTEX has caused tension between Europe and the US, with the latter effectively threatening to sanction anyone who uses it. So far it has not been used, although a source told European news outlet Euractiv this week that ‘there is hope to carry out transactions shortly’.