Iranian noncompliance harms revival of nuclear deal, Irish FM tells 'Post'

Third-party talks led by the EU to revive the deal have faltered. In the interim, Iran has inched closer to the point where it could produce a nuclear bomb.

 Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney.  (photo credit: FOREIGN MINISTRY)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney.
(photo credit: FOREIGN MINISTRY)

Tehran’s continued pursuit of nuclear-weapons development jeopardizes the revival of the 2015 Iran deal, Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told The Jerusalem Post in advance of his talk with his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid on the matter on Wednesday.

“There is a real-time consideration here,” he told the paper a day earlier in speaking about the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which had sought to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

“Iran is developing their nuclear capacity outside of what was agreed in the JCPOA. They are no longer anywhere close to compliance,” Coveney said.

If this lack of compliance continues, “at some point in time the countries that are committed to making the JCPOA work will question whether it can do the job it was designed to do any longer,” Coveney explained.

Since taking office in January, US President Joe Biden has sought to reimpose the deal, which the Trump administration exited in 2018. It had been signed between Tehran and six world powers: the US, Russia, China, France, UK and Germany.

DELEGATES WAIT for the start of talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, in Vienna, Austria, last month. (credit: EU DELEGATION IN VIENNA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)DELEGATES WAIT for the start of talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, in Vienna, Austria, last month. (credit: EU DELEGATION IN VIENNA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Israel has opposed the deal, which it believes enabled Iran’s nuclear program and emboldened its regional aggression.

The Biden administration and the signatories to the deal believe it is the best available vehicle to prevent a nuclear Iran

Third-party talks led by the European Union to revive the deal have faltered. In the interim, Iran has inched closer to the point at which it could produce a nuclear bomb.

Coveney said his country has a critical role to play in reviving the deal, which it supports.

In January 2021 Ireland began a two-year term on the 15-member UN Security Council. It was appointed facilitator for UNSC Resolution 2231, under which the Council endorsed the JCPOA.

“In that role, we are continuing to try to bring parties together in Vienna to find agreement. We believe that if agreement can be found, that makes a positive contribution to stability,” Coveney said.

Failure to revive the deal would create “very significant instability in the region” and lead to “regional proliferation with other countries wanting to develop nuclear capacity in response, i.e. Saudi Arabia,” Coveney said.

The stakes, therefore, are very high, he said, noting that at present, Iran has enriched uranium to 60% purity.

“These are dangerous times, not the least for Israel because they of course are watching this very closely and are very skeptical of the JCPOA process. I understand that. I have spoken to Israeli ministers many times on that issue,” the Irish diplomat said.

What is needed is robust and transparent International Atomic Energy Agency inspections and for “Iran to stop their investment in nuclear capacity” and “to comply with the spirit and the letter of the JCPOA,” he added.

“But that has to be agreed and negotiated,” he added. “The new Iranian government has indicated that they will come back to Vienna for negotiations in the next few weeks. That is welcome, but that is just getting people into a room,” he said.

The real test is whether or not progress can be made once the talks resume, he said.

“There is all sorts of uncertainty around the current negotiations, we know that,” explained Coveney, but Ireland, the EU and the signatories to the deal, including the Biden administration believe it is still the best option available.

“Does it solve all issues that relate to Iran? No, it doesn’t. Is it better to have in place than not to have in place? Yes, we think so,” Coveney concluded.

On Wednesday, Lapid tweeted of their meeting, “We discussed the bilateral relationship between our two countries and various regional issues including the threat posed by Iran.”

Coveney also traveled to Ramallah on Wednesday to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Coveney met with PA Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Abu Amr and Amal Jado, a senior official with the PA Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

They spoke with him about the need for a serious European move to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Europe has a role in helping the Palestinians achieve their goals and legitimate rights in accordance with international law and United Nations resolutions, according to a statement by the PA, the two Palestinian politicians told him.

The two sides also discussed the severe financial crisis of the PA, as well as Israeli security measures in Jerusalem and the need to end the blockade imposed on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Abu Amr thanked the Irish Foreign Minister for his country’s stances and the role it plays in supporting the PA and the Palestinian people, especially since Ireland is one of the biggest supporters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), according to the PA statement.

Coveney is scheduled to head on Thursday to Jordan, where he will meet with his Jordanian counterpart and inaugurate his country’s new embassy in Amman.