On December 21, 2020, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended a video conference of foreign ministers on the Iranian nuclear issue. The meeting was chaired by the European Union (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab attended the meeting.
Wang Yi said that, in the past year, the Iranian nuclear issue has undergone important changes. The withdrawal of the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and its extreme pressure on Iran are the root cause of the Iranian nuclear issue deviating from the right direction. The right way to fundamentally resolve the crisis is for the U.S. to change course, return to the JCPOA and resume its commitments. At present, the Iranian nuclear situation has come to a critical juncture. U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has made it clear that the U.S. has the willingness to return to the JCPOA. Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to intensify its pressure on Iran. The JCPOA not only has a window of opportunity to get back on track, but also faces unprecedented risks and challenges. Under the circumstances, China put forward four suggestions on the Iranian nuclear issue.
First, we should unswervingly uphold the JCPOA. We should maintain strategic determination, be more explicit in opposing extreme pressure, more active in upholding the JCPOA, and more proactive in working with all parties to gain time and space for the situation to be turned around and move the Iranian nuclear situation toward the direction expected by the international community.
Second, we should promote an early return of the U.S. to the JCPOA. The U.S. side should return to the JCPOA unconditionally as soon as possible and lift sanctions against Iran and third-party entities and individuals. On this basis, Iran fully resumes its nuclear commitments. Neither party should impose any other conditions for this. China suggests that the parties to the JCPOA should conduct consultations on this issue as soon as possible. After reaching an agreement, consideration should be given to convening an international conference between the parties to the JCPOA and the U.S. to start the process of the U.S. returning to the JCPOA.
Third, we should settle disputes fairly and objectively during the implementation of the deal. Blame and pressure will only undermine the consensus to uphold the JCPOA, while dialogue and cooperation will help achieve a balance of rights and obligations. To maintain unity and manage differences, the legitimate economic interests of the Iranian side should be protected. We should continue to properly handle the UN Security Council’s nuclear issue in relation to Iran, support the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to carry out verification of Iran and deepen cooperation with Iran.
Fourth, we should properly handle regional security issues. The JCPOA is not a panacea for all problems. Linking regional security issues directly to the JCPOA will be a self-imposed roadblock in the process of restoring compliance. China proposes to set up a special multilateral dialogue platform in the Persian Gulf region to initiate an inclusive dialogue process and to continuously build consensus on regional security issues from easy to difficult. We are also ready to enhance complementarity and mutual communication with the initiatives of Russia and other countries to form synergy.
Wang Yi stressed that China will as always uphold and implement the JCPOA. China is willing to work with all parties for the early restoration and effective implementation of the JCPOA so as to better safeguard peace and stability in the Middle East.
After the meeting, the parties issued a joint statement, reaffirming their commitment to upholding the JCPOA and UN Security Council Resolution 2231 and ensuring their full and effective implementation. The parties reiterated their deep regret at the withdrawal of the U.S. from the JCPOA, stressing that UN Security Council Resolution 2231 remains fully valid. They endorsed the prospect of the U.S. returning to the JCPOA and agreed to work together to push for its return to the JCPOA as soon as possible.