Feb 22, 2020, 8:39 PM
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Austrian FM terms abandoning JCPOA as "utter mistake"

London, Feb 22, IRNA – Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg on Saturday described abandoning the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as an "utter mistake".

In an interview with IRNA, the top Austrian diplomat added that the EU stands by the agreement and "we are very appreciative of Iran’s hitherto cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency as maintenance of the agreement cannot succeed without the Iranian side".

However, the recent steps towards a "less for less" arrangement, under which Iran further reduces its commitment, are a great cause for concern, he further added. 

So far, the JCPOA is the only agreement "we have and we now need to focus on its preservation", he said adding as long as there is no better proposal accepted by all there is no alternative to it. 

Elsewhere in his remarks, he stated that "we have expressed our support for the concerted efforts" of the so-called E3 – France, Germany and the United Kingdom – to save the Iran deal, including the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), from the outset. Whether "we will join or not is still under examination".

Referring that bilateral ties between Austria and Iran have existed for centuries, he noted that as both countries have a long and rich history, cultural exchange remains an important element.

Schallenberg went on to say that Austria has had the largest and only western cultural forum in the region for over 60 years and there is great confidence "in our continued efforts to deepen cultural exchange".

He expressed regret that the economic ties have declined due to the reinstatement of US sanctions against Iran.

Commenting on the objectives of his upcoming visit to Iran, the Austrian Foreign Minister pointed out that Austria attaches high importance to peace and stability in the wider Middle East. Recent developments have been extremely worrying. It is my mission to help deescalate tensions through enhanced dialogue.

I support the diplomatic outreach of the EU High Representative to identify avenues for dialogue between Iran and its neighbors as well as between Iran and the United States, he underlined.

"I am coming to Iran to underline the EU’s commitment to preserving the JCPOA and the importance of its full implementation. This is of special importance to us as the JCPOA was negotiated in Vienna," he further noted.

He underscored that his trip to Teheran follows the recent visit of EU High Representative Josep Borrell. It exemplifies that de-escalation of the explosive situation in the Persian Gulf is a top priority for all 27 EU-Member states, including the Netherlands.

"We are all aware that failure of the JCPOA could lead to a nuclear arms race in the whole region" and thus, bear unforeseeable risks for Europe. Every point of contact is therefore useful in this fraught situation, he pointed out.

"We are very concerned about the escalation of tensions in the [Persian] Gulf region and we will explore all possible avenues" of dialogue in the hope of improvement, he said.

In this regard and in view of "our traditional role as mediator, I will also renew our offer to host talks in Vienna", he added.

After Britain, France, and Germany, collectively known as the E3, formally triggered a dispute settlement mechanism featured in the JCPOA, a step that could lead to the restoration of UN sanctions against the Islamic Republic, Iran warned that it would leave the NPT if the EU took Iran's nuclear case to the UNSC.

“The European’s statement is in no way legal. If the Europeans take another step, Iran will consider leaving the NPT according to a letter by the Iranian president in May 2019,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had said.

According to the EU’s foreign policy chief, the European Union will discuss ways to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal and the possibility of triggering a dispute mechanism featured in it.

“There is an agreement that more time is needed due to the complexity of the issues involved. The timeline is therefore extended," said Josep Borrell said in a statement.

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