By Jaya Ramachandran
VIENNA (IDN) - Political will and multilateral diplomacy marked a milestone as U.S. President Barack Obama revoked a 20-year system of sanctions against Iran and Federica Mogherini, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and a Council member of the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND), announced the lifting of EU economic blockade against Tehran on January 16.
The move followed confirmation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran has complied with the terms of July 2015 landmark deal – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPO) – which provides restrictions and international verification of Iran’s nuclear energy program to ensure it is only able to be used for peaceful purposes. The decision to lift the sanctions was formally adopted by all 28 member states of the European Union (EU).
“As Iran has fulfilled its commitments, today, multilateral and national economic and financial sanctions related to Iran's nuclear programme are lifted in accordance with the JCPOA.” Mogherini said.
The EU and E3+3 countries, consisting of the People’s Republic of China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the U.S., and Iran will also cooperate in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, in the framework of the JCPOA, she added.
"This achievement clearly demonstrates that with political will, perseverance, and through multilateral diplomacy, we can solve the most difficult issues and find practical solutions that are effectively implemented," Mogherini said in a joint statement, which was subsequently read out by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Persian.
“UN sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear programme are lifted. United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 (2015), which endorsed the JCPOA, will from now onwards, together with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), be the sole international legal framework related to Iran’s nuclear activities, terminating provisions of resolutions 1696 (2006), 1737 (2007), 1747 (2007), 1803 (2008), 1835 (2008), 1929 (2010) and 2224 (2015),” the statement added.
A total of 92 Iranians and 466 companies or groups, including the Iranian central bank, were affected by the EU sanctions. The lifting of U.S. economic sanctions on Iran unlocks access to $100 billion in frozen overseas assets and unleashes new opportunities for its battered economy.
Iranian Transport Minister Abbas Akhondi, for example, said beginning of January that his country had reached a deal with the European consortium Airbus to buy 114 passenger planes as soon as the sanctions were lifted.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, at a press conference highlighting the implementation of the Iran deal, said that the threat of a nuclear weapon has been reduced and diplomacy has shown to be successful. "Today marks the first day of a safer world," Kerry declared in Vienna. "This evening, we are really reminded once again of diplomacy's power to tackle significant challenges."
The U.S also sees the deal as a useful first step toward cooperation with Iran on other key issues such as ending the Syrian conflict and other Middle East crises. As such it is a foreign policy triumph for U.S. President Barack Obama.
The U.S. and Iran used the occasion of ‘Iran nuclear deal implementation day’ to announce a swap of prisoners. Four Americans imprisoned in Iran were exchanged for seven Iranians held or charged in the United States.
Four Americans — Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, pastor Saeed Abedini and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari — have been flown from Iran to Switzerland on a Swiss plane and then brought to a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, for medical treatment.
In return, the U.S. committed to either pardon or drop charges against seven Iranians — six of them dual citizens — accused or convicted of violating U.S. sanctions. The U.S. will also drop Interpol "red notices" — essentially arrest warrants — on a handful of sought Iranian fugitives.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry linked the trust built between Iran and the United States over the past two years of talks to the possibility of securing the prisoner swap.
Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi said that Iran gained its “right” through support from the Iranian nation and Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.
Many world leaders and politicians respond to the implementation of Iran’s historic nuclear deal with world powers.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also hailed the agreement implementation.
“This achievement demonstrates that international proliferation concerns are best addressed through dialogue and patient diplomacy,” said Ban’s spokesman in a statement. “This is a significant milestone that reflects the good faith effort by all parties to fulfill their agreed commitments,” he added.
In a statement released by the IAEA, the agency’s Director General Yukiyo Amano said that “Relations between Iran and the IAEA now enter a new phase. It is an important day for the international community. I congratulate all those who helped make it a reality.”
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond released a statement saying that “Years of patient and persistent diplomacy, and difficult technical work, have borne fruit as we now implement the deal.”
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also welcomed the deal, calling it an “important step for peace and security implementation.”
“At a time when the region is seeing immense challenges and strong tensions, I hope that the spirit of cooperation that marked the conclusion of the deal can also be brought to all the other regional issues,” he said.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also greeted the announcement as a “historic success for diplomacy.” He added that the diplomatic victory could lead to success “in defusing other urgent crises and conflicts in the region, especially regarding the civil war in Syria.”
Leading US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton praised Obama for implementing the nuclear agreement, yet claiming that concerns still remain. “Iran is still violating UN Security Council resolutions with its ballistic missile program, which should be met with new sanctions designations and firm resolve,” Clinton said.
However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated Tel Aviv’s anti-Iran rhetoric, saying, “Even after signing the nuclear deal, Iran has not relinquished its ambition to obtain nuclear weapons.” Netanyahu added that Israel would “follow the implementation of the deal and warn of any violation.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 17 January 2016]
Photo: Mogherini at a press conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif in Tehran in July 2015 Credit: Press TV