Lavrov: Some Western states waiting for Iran to violate nuclear deal
Some Western partners want Iran to make a mistake and declare steps, which will be in breach of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told an international forum, the Primakov Readings, on Tuesday.
“As far as the prospects of preserving the JCPOA are concerned, a lot depends on the Europeans. I will be waiting with interest for a briefing on the outcome of German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’s trip to Tehran,” Lavrov said, TASS reported.
“I’m not ruling out that some of our partners want Iran to make a mistake and declare certain steps that are not in line with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” Lavrov said, adding, “then someone in the West would breathe easily and shun the responsibility with a clean conscience.”
“This will be very regrettable,” Lavrov said, noting that he expects that Europe would be committed to the UN Security Council’s resolutions.
Lavrov warned the international community against unreasonable attempts to isolate Iran.
“We want calm to return to this region. It is necessary to normalize relations between the Persian Gulf states, and also outside players should avoid fomenting differences,” Lavrov said.
These are objective differences, but it’s a bad sign that they are trying to shift them from an ideological and political perspective to a military angle, he noted.
“I hope that the Arab countries [of the Persian Gulf] understand that calls to bring the policy of isolating Iran to a military scenario are risky.”
Lavrov noted that Russia had tirelessly urged creating a system of security and trust in the region. “We are suggesting particular ideas, which will enable the Arab states of the Persian Gulf and Iran to establish contacts between each other, alleviate mutual concerns and ensure transparency on issues of military construction and military drills,” he explained.
Lavrov’s remarks came amid heightened tensions between Iran and the US which has sent an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf to counter what it claims a threat from Iran.
On Monday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas paid an official visit to Tehran aimed at easing tensions between Tehran and Washington.
Tensions have worsened in recent months after the US unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement and its recent military buildup in the Persian Gulf.
US economic terrorism
Following its pullout from the JCPOA, Washington reimposed sanctions against Iran, a move that drew international criticism.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani told the visiting German top diplomat that the European countries must resist the US economic terrorism against the Iranian nation and live up to their obligations as per the nuclear deal.
“We expect Europe to stand up to and resist America’s economic terrorism against the Iranian nation and fulfill its obligations in accordance with the JCPOA,” Rouhani said, adding that following the US withdrawal from the deal, Iran could have done the same on the strength of Article 36 of the JCPOA, but rather decided to remain patient and give other signatories a chance.
The Iranian president said the US is pressing ahead with its policy of economic terrorism through “cruel sanctions,” stressing that “we believe, in particular, that we must stand against those who block people’s access to medicine and food.”
“The war that the US has waged against Iran since a year ago, will not serve the interest of anybody and the Iranian nation has proved during this period that it will resist against pressure and bullying,” Rouhani said.
The Iranian president added that the US restrictions on the imports of food and medicine to Iran are aimed at exerting pressure on the Iranian people and are in line with Washington’s policy to foment insecurity in the region, saying, “Regional security will never be achieved through imposing pressure and sanctions on the Iranian nation.”
Gigantic offshore platform being shipped to Iran’s southern gas field
The third platform of Phase 14 of Iran’s South Pars Gas Field, which was built by domestic experts, was launched in the Persian Gulf waters on Tuesday.
Weighing 2,400 tons, the gigantic structure was loaded on a barge in the southern port city of Bandar Abbas, Tasnim News Agency reported.
The platform will be installed on its designated offshore spot in South Pars Gas Field in the southern province of Bushehr.
In April 2017, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated phases 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21 of the South Pars Gas Field, whose development has been divided into 28 phases.
The energy-rich zone is located in the Persian Gulf, straddling the maritime border between Iran and Qatar, covering an area of 9,700 square kilometers, of which 3,700 square kilometers belong to Iran.
It is estimated that the Iranian section of the field contains 14 trillion cubic meters of gas and 18 billion barrels of condensates in place.
Japanese official: Abe’s Iran visit aimed at deepening friendship
By Farzam Vanaki
The purpose of Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s visit to Iran is to deepen the friendship between Tokyo and Tehran, which already exists, said a Japanese government official.
Accompanied by Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, Abe arrives in Iran on Wednesday to hold a number of meetings with top Iranian officials.
This visit comes at a very precious moment in the history of the two countries’ relations when they are celebrating the 90th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic relations, he added at press conference on Tuesday ahead of Abe’s Iran trip, answering to Iran Daily’s question.
He noted that Japan and Iran will deepen their friendship based on mutual interests and the long history of their friendship so far.
Elaborating on the schedule of the visit by the Japanese officials, he said, “On Wednesday, Kono will meet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Following his arrival at Mehrabad Airport in the Iranian capital on Wednesday afternoon, Abe will attend a welcoming ceremony at Sa’dabad Palace. Next, he will meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, after which they will have a joint press announcement. Then, Abe will attend a dinner ceremony hosted by Mr. Rouhani.”
On Thursday, he said, Abe will be received by The Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, following which he will leave Tehran in the afternoon.
He said this fall, Abe will become the longest serving prime minister of Japan, adding his political base is very strong.
“As of June 6, he has been serving as Japan’s prime minister for 2,720 days, making him already the third longest serving prime minister in the history of Japanese constitutional government. Backed by such a domestic support, Abe has been actively engaged in diplomacy. For him, as well as the Japanese diplomacy, 2019 is a very important year. For instance, this year Japan will host the G20 meeting in Osaka which will be held on June 28 and 29.”
At this meeting, Abe is expected to meet with US President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and also Chinese President Xi Jinping, he said.
In terms of bilateral relations between Japan and Iran, this is a very special year for the two countries as it marks the 90th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Tokyo and Tehran, he noted.
In February, he said, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani visited Japan and in May, Zarif met his Japanese counterpart and paid a courtesy call to Abe.
He stressed that Japan has been consistently supporting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed between Iran and the P5+1 in July 2015.
On Tehran’s importance to Tokyo he said, “Iran is a linchpin for the stability of the Middle East region which is crucially important for Japan’s energy security. It is one the great powers of the region and has been enjoying traditional friendship with Japan.”
Turning to the significance of Abe’s meetings with Iranian leaders in his visit to Tehran, he said under the circumstances that tension is tightening in the Middle East region, Japan works on Iran as a great power of the region to ease tension at every level, including the highest leadership.
Abe’s Tehran visit will be the first trip by a Japanese prime minister to Iran in 41 years, which will contribute to the further deepening of the two sides’ traditional friendly relationship.
He added the visit by two senior Japanese officials to Iran represents the country’s commitment to the peace and stability of the Middle East.
Resumption of oil imports
On whether the resumption of Japan’s oil imports from Iran will be discussed in Abe’s visit, he said the issue pertains to private Japanese companies as they are the ones purchasing crude.
In May 2018, Trump pulled the US out of the JCPOA and reimposed Washington’s unilateral sanctions on Iran in two phases. The White House constantly claims that part of the sanctions are aimed at reducing Iran’s oil exports to zero. Japanese refineries used to be among major customers of Iranian oil prior to the reinstatement of unilateral US sanctions.
Answering to a question whether Abe’s Iran visit is aimed at mediating between Tehran and Washington, he reiterated that this time, the main purpose of Abe’s trip to Tehran is to ease the tension in the region.
He added this is the prime minister’s own initiative.
Petchem chief derides US sanctions on Iran
The CEO of Iran’s National Petrochemical Company shrugged off US sanctions on the country’s largest and most profitable petrochemical group, saying they will not impact the industry.
“The newly-announced US embargo will have no effect on the production and sale of Iranian petrochemicals,” Behzad Mohammadi told reporters on the sidelines of a ceremony to sign an industrial development agreement.
“The petrochemical industry has been grappling with sanctions for many years, and in this situation, we are looking to develop this industry,” said Mohammadi, according to Press TV.
Last week, the US Treasury Department said it had hit Iran’s Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company (PGPIC) with economic sanctions due to its ties with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).
The IRGC, founded in 1979 after the Islamic Revolution, is tasked with defending Iran against threats, but its civilian branch has been playing a key role in the country’s development projects as a strategic partner in many fields.
The Treasury said in a statement that its sanctions aim to choke off financing to the PGPIC and extends to its 39 subsidiaries and “foreign-based sales agents”.
The PGPIC group, it said, holds 40 percent of Iran’s total petrochemical production capacity and is responsible for 50% of the country’s petrochemical exports.
Washington is trying to stop Iran’s petrochemical, steel and copper exports, and to disrupt its ports and shipping services.
Mohammadi said, “Sanctions against Iran’s petrochemical industry are not a new thing, because we have been struggling with these issues for many years, and have still been able to build an appropriate production and sale basis.”
On Tuesday, Iranian media outlets said the country is pressing ahead with building its third petrochemical hub which will have such capacities as power generation, water production, petroleum refining as well as steel and aluminum production.
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Johnson accused of cowardice as he dodges public scrutiny
Boris Johnson has been accused of “not having the guts to face the people” in the Conservative leadership race, coming under fire for dodging interviews and refusing to confirm his participation in a BBC debate with other candidates.
Johnson, the clear frontrunner with MPs and the Tory membership, was implicitly criticized by several of his rivals who said the race must put all the candidates under proper scrutiny, the Guardian reported.
The former foreign secretary is expected to launch his campaign today, when he faces some media questioning. However, he has refused to say whether he will appear on a televised hustings next Tuesday and has avoided broadcast interviews.
All 10 candidates have been invited to the BBC debate, with Michael Gove, Sajid Javid, Rory Stewart, Dominic Raab, Andrea Leadsom and Mark Harper having all confirmed to the Guardian that they would take part.
If Johnson takes questions at his campaign launch, he is likely to be asked about his admission of having taken cocaine at university, after the controversy over Gove’s use of class-A drugs.
Johnson has done just one newspaper interview, with the Sunday Times, and no major broadcast interviews since the campaign began, and has only made paid corporate appearances in Manchester and Switzerland. His main policy announcements have been made through his Daily Telegraph columns, for which he is also paid.
Several of the other candidates appeared to criticize Johnson for apparently trying to get through the next few weeks of voting among MPs without too much scrutiny of his policies and views.
Harper, one of the outsiders, said all candidates must be open to public questioning and scrutiny, and that any other route would risk a similar situation to the 2017 general election, when Theresa May’s campaign style stumbled.
“If you want to lead this country, you have to be prepared to set out your stall,” he said.
“I think you have to open yourself up to questioning and be prepared to level with people and be questioned about it. We had a general election campaign two years ago and the prime minister demonstrated she was not as good at campaigning as we all thought she would be.”
Hancock added, “I certainly think that everybody who puts their name forward to be prime minister should be open to scrutiny, should be accountable.
“Everybody should participate in the proposed TV debates. And I think we’ve got to ask the question: why not? I’ve got nothing to hide and that’s why I am here.”
David Lammy, a Labor MP who supports the People’s Vote campaign for a second referendum, criticized Johnson for wanting to “force a destructive no deal on our country, when he doesn’t have the guts to face the people”.
“His reluctance to appear in public or to answer questions about his dangerous Brexit proposals suggests he wants to win this contest by speaking only to the membership of the Conservative Party rather than the other 65 million people of the United Kingdom who will have to live [with] the consequences,” Lammy said.
“Saying nothing, other than through a lucrative column in the Telegraph, is no way for a potential prime minister to conduct themselves. The country is crying out for leadership, not cowardice.”
Johnson’s strategy does not appear to have harmed his chances with MPs. He won several more high-profile backers on Tuesday, with the former contender Kit Malthouse and former leader Iain Duncan Smith both supporting him. He now has at least 65 MPs behind him, making it very likely he will make the shortlist of two candidates to be put to a vote of the membership.
The controversy came as Leadsom launched her campaign, insisting that parliament would be unable to block a no-deal Brexit and that the October 31 deadline was a “hard red line” for her.
Leadsom, who resigned as the leader of the Commons last month, claimed her plans for a “managed Brexit” would be likely to win over both MPs and the EU27 – but even if MPs objected, they would not be able to force the government to extend article 50.
While MPs forced May’s hand in March to ask for an extension, Leadsom said, “I do not think that parliament actually has the ability to prevent us leaving at the end of October.”
In contrast, Hancock refused to rule out extending Britain’s membership of the EU beyond October, but insisted he could secure a time limit to the backstop from the EU that would pass parliament.
The health secretary said his rival candidates who had pledged to leave – deal or no deal – by October 31 were making false promises because parliament would block any no-deal departure.
He said the outcome would be a general election, which would be a “catastrophe for my party and extremely damaging for the country”.
Hancock claimed his plan for renegotiation was detailed, “unlike some of the other candidates”, and would involve first putting a deal to parliament that included a backstop with a time limit, to prove to the EU27 that it could pass. He would then restart the negotiations.
The backstop is a device intended to ensure there will not be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, even if no formal deal can be reached on trade and security arrangements.
Hancock told BBC Radio 4’s Today program his plan had the support of David Lidington, the de facto deputy prime minister, and that Brussels was open to the change.
“It is eminently deliverable by October 31. Once you have a majority in the House of Commons things can move quickly,” he said.
All the leadership candidates will take part in private hustings before the vote, with the first round taking place on Tuesday night.
Defending Johnson, the former defense secretary Michael Fallon said he hoped the contest would not focus on personalities.
“There’s a wide range of candidates but I hope we can agree to leave some of the personal stuff out of this … in the end we have all got to rally round, support the new prime minister, bring the party together again.”
Iran, South Korea share the spoils in Seoul
Iran and South Korea played to a 1-1 draw in a friendly fixture at Seoul World Cup Stadium on Tuesday as the Iranians’ undefeated run against their rival extended to six matches.
Hwang Ui-jo put the host in front in the 58th minute after a moment of misjudgment between the Iranian defenders Milad Mohammadi and Morteza Pouraliganji saw the South Korean find the space behind Iran’s backline and chip the ball over Iranian keeper Alireza Beiranvand.
Marc Wilmots’s men, however, had to wait only five minutes for an equalizer.
Ramin Rezaeian’s corner from the right flank went off the leg of South Korean defender Kim Young-gwon and past keeper Jo Hyeon-woo into the net – denying the Far East Asian side a victory over the traditional opponent in eight years.
Both teams had the chance to break the deadlock earlier in the game.
Na Sang-ho’s volley off a Lee Yong cross on the stroke of halftime hit Iran’s crossbar before Iranian substitute Ahmad Nourollahi’s effort form outside the box was denied by the woodwork in the 55th minute.
It was Wilmots’s second game in charge of Iran, after his side thrashed Syria 5-0 in the Iranian capital of Tehran last Thursday.
EU eyeing further cultural ties with Iran: Danish envoy
European Union is willing to broaden its cultural relations with Iran, Danish ambassador to Iran said on Tuesday.
Danny Annan, the Danish ambassador to Iran, who is visiting the northwestern city of Tabriz on the occasion of European Film Week, said, “Compared with the previous year, the number of viewers and the cities participating in the event are up by 25 percent which shows the significance EU and affiliated countries attach to the close cultural relation with Iranian people,” IRNA reported.
This year is the third consecutive year the event is being held in Iran.
The diplomat emphasized the importance of cooperation between various cultures to develop international understanding, adding that cultural bridges between Iran and Europe were created through collected resources and experiences of 20 European countries.
Referring to workshops being held by Cypriot, Dutch, Swedish and Swiss filmmakers during the week, Annan expressed hope that the activities would lead to joint production with Iranian counterparts.
The long history of successful cinema of Iran, including the works of prominent filmmakers such as Kiarostami and Farhadi, serve as good source for understanding the life and concerns of people from another culture, the Denmark ambassador said.
The European Film Week kicked off in Tabriz on Saturday June 8 and six other Iranian cities.
Trump defends tariff strategy as China says ‘not afraid of trade war’
US President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended the use of tariffs as part of his trade strategy while China vowed a tough response if the United States insists on escalating trade tensions amid ongoing negotiations.
“Tariffs are a great negotiating tool,” Trump tweeted, one day after saying he was ready to impose another round of punitive tariffs on China.
On Monday, the Republican president said he would raise tariffs on Chinese imports further if he cannot make progress in trade talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit later this month, Reuters reported.
Trump has repeatedly said he is getting ready to meet Xi at the summit in Osaka, Japan, at the end of June, but China has not confirmed it.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang again would not be drawn into confirming a Xi-Trump meeting at G20, saying information would be released once it was available to the Foreign Ministry.
“China does not want to fight a trade war, but we are not afraid of fighting a trade war,” he said, adding China’s door was open to talks based on equality.
“If the United States only wants to escalate trade frictions, we will resolutely respond and fight to the end.”
Last week, Trump said he would decide after G20, the meeting of the leaders of the world’s largest economies, whether to carry out a threat to impose tariffs on an additional $300 billion in Chinese goods.
Tensions between Washington and Beijing flared in May after the Trump administration accused China of reneging on promises to make structural economic changes during months of trade talks.
The United States is seeking sweeping changes, including an end to forced technology transfers and theft of US trade secrets. It also wants curbs on subsidies for Chinese state-owned enterprises and better access for US firms to Chinese markets.
On May 10, Trump raised tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25% and took steps to levy duties on an additional $300 billion in Chinese imports. Beijing retaliated with tariff hikes on a revised list of $60 billion in US goods.
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Tuesday downplayed the likelihood of resolving the dispute at the G20 summit, saying it would not be “a place where anyone makes a definitive deal.”
“At the G20, at most it will be ... some sort of agreement on a path forward, but certainly it’s not going to be a definite agreement,” Ross told CNBC.
US says ‘fine’ with Iran trade channel for non-sanctioned goods
The United States is “fine” with a European trade mechanism that would allow trade with Iran to continue without falling foul of American sanctions, the US State Department said.
State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in Washington on Monday that “any payment systems in which there are goods or services, or whatever the commodity might be, that is not sanctioned by the US government is fine.”
Ortagus, however, noted that the US “would not support any payment mechanism from any country in the world that would allow businesses or entities or countries to engage in transactions with Iran that are sanctioned entities.”
France, Britain and Germany have set up a special-purpose vehicle called INSTEX, designed to allow payments to Iran that would legally bypass US sanctions which were reinstated after Washington abandoned Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers a year ago. INSTEX has yet to become operational.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in Tehran on Monday that the three European signatories to the nuclear deal are determined to stick to their commitments from the 2015 agreement.
“We want to fulfil our obligations,” he said. “We cannot work miracles, but we will try to avert a failure (of the nuclear deal),” Maas told a joint news conference with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Iran signed the landmark accord with China, Russia, Germany, Britain, France and the United States, leading to sanctions relief in exchange for Tehran curbing its nuclear program.
But the US administration of President Donald Trump has imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran and, according to Tehran, waged an “economic war” against it after walking away from the deal.
Maas acknowledged the economic benefits Tehran hoped for from the deal were now “more difficult to obtain” but urged Iran to fully respect the agreement.
“This is an instrument of a new kind, so it’s not straightforward to operationalize it,” Maas said. “But all the formal requirements are in place now, and so I’m assuming we’ll be ready to use it in the foreseeable future.”
The three EU members want INSTEX to meet norms for legitimate financing set by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force, even though Iran as a country is not yet fully compliant with them.
US weighing sanctions on trade vehicle
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported on Monday that the Trump administration is weighing sanctions on Iran’s counterpart to the European special-purpose vehicle.
The financial news provider quoted a senior administration official as saying that the latest measures will target the Special Trade and Finance Institute, which Iran set up to correspond to Europe’s INSTEX in bypassing sanctions.
The US government is targeting Iran’s Special Trade and Finance Institute (STFI) on the ground that the country has not implemented global safeguards against money laundering and terrorism financing, Bloomberg cited the unnamed official as saying.
It said punishing STFI could doom INSTEX because it raises the possibility of sanctions risk to anyone who is part of the European mechanism.
The initiative, it said, drives home a letter sent by the US Treasury Department in early May to Per Fischer, the president of INSTEX, arguing that the financial body could face sanctions.
“If they are looking at sanctioning STFI, you’re essentially trying to kill INSTEX through the back door,” said Ellie Geranmayeh, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
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