Thank you, Madame President, for convening today’s meeting on non-proliferation, which remains a cornerstone of international peace and security and a top priority for the international community.
In this regard, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear issue, and resolution 2231 (2015), are crucial to nuclear non-proliferation as well as regional and international security. We are encouraged by the broad international support for the Plan and the resolution. Their full and effective implementation is key to ensuring the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme and to secure tangible economic benefit to the Iranian people.
We therefore regret the withdrawal of the United States from the JCPOA in May 2018 and the recent steps taken by Iran to reduce its nuclear-related commitments under the Plan.
Certain actions taken by the United States, since its withdrawal from the Plan, are contrary to the goals of the Plan. The re-imposition of its national sanctions lifted under the Plan, as well as its decision not to extend waivers for the trade in oil with Iran and certain non-proliferation projects, may also impede the ability of Iran and other Member States to implement the Plan and 2231.
Since July, under IAEA monitoring, Iran has surpassed JCPOA-stipulated limits on its uranium enrichment level, as well as limits on its stockpiles of heavy water and low-enriched uranium. It has taken steps related to centrifuge research and development, and commenced injecting uranium hexafluoride gas into the centrifuges at the Fordow facility. Iran has stated that all these steps are reversible and that it intends to remain in the Plan. It is important that Iran returns to full implementation of the Plan, and refrain from further steps to reduce its commitments.
We welcome the initiatives of the other participants of the JCPOA, which should be given full effect as a matter of priority. In this regard, the recent decisions by Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway to also join the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) are positive developments.
These actions can contribute to the goals of facilitating legitimate business with Iran and the preservation of the Plan. The Secretary-General encourages Member States and others to work with JCPOA participants to achieve these important goals.
At the same time, Iran should carefully consider and address the concerns expressed by Member States about its activities in relation to the restrictive measures contained in annex B to the resolution.
Over the course of this year, tensions in the region have worryingly escalated. We witnessed attacks against oil tankers, strikes against a civilian airport, and a highly sophisticated and synchronized attack against oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. Combined with acrimonious rhetoric, these developments have dangerously brought the region closer to a serious confrontation. Such an eventuality would be devastating and must be prevented at all cost. The Secretary-General continues to call on Member States to exercise maximum restraint and prevent further escalation amid heightened tensions.
I will now turn to the measures contained in annex B to the resolution, as outlined in the Secretary-General’s eighth report on the implementation of resolution 2231 and subsequent information obtained during the reporting period.
First, on the implementation of the nuclear-related provisions, we have not received new reports on the supply, sale or transfer to Iran of nuclear and nuclear-related dual-use items contrary to paragraph 2 of annex B. It is vital that the procurement channel works effectively and efficiently to promote increased international engagement with Iran. All Member States and the private sector are encouraged to fully utilize and support this channel.
In this connection, we recall the 3 May 2018 announcement by the United States that involvement in certain nuclear-related activities set forth in paragraph 2 of annex B may be exposed to its national sanctions. We also note the announcement by the United States that effective 15 December 2019 it “will terminate the sanctions waiver related to the nuclear facility at Fordow”.
Exemption provisions in resolution 2231 allow for the transfer of such items, materials, equipment, goods and technology required for the nuclear activities of Iran under the Plan, subject to the relevant notification requirements.
Second, several Member States have provided divergent views on Iran’s test-firing of ballistic missiles in the reporting period, as well as a reportedly failed launch of a space-launch vehicle in August. Paragraph 3 of annex B calls upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.
France, Germany, Israel, the United Kingdom, and the United States viewed the missiles reportedly launched by Iran to be category I systems under the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), and are therefore designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons. By contrast, Iran and the Russian Federation stressed the lack of any reference to the MTCR regime in paragraph 3 of annex B. They further stated that Iran’s ballistic missile activities were not inconsistent with paragraph 3, as these missiles were not designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Related to ballistic missiles activities, the Secretariat also received information from the United States that several shipments of HTPB (hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene) – a substance that can be used in solid missile fuel – were transferred to Iran in July and August 2017. We are examining this information and will update the Council accordingly.
Third, regarding arms-related restrictions, the Secretariat confirmed that 23 optical sights for RPG-7-type rocket propelled grenade launchers, part of a larger consignment seized in Aden (in December 2018), were delivered to end-users in Iran in 2016. This suggests that these optical sights may have been transferred from Iran to Yemen after 16 January 2016, which would be inconsistent with Iran’s obligations under resolution 2231. We had already indicated in our last report that the grenade launchers found in that seizure had characteristics similar to the Iranian-produced RPG-7-type launchers, such as markings and heat shields.
Further on the arms restrictive measures, the Secretariat – at the invitation of Saudi authorities – examined the debris of the weapons systems used in the 14 May attack on the oil facility in Afif, the 12 June and 10 August attacks on the Abha International Airport and the 14 September attack on the Saudi Aramco oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais.
Though the Houthis claimed responsibility for the 14 September attacks on Abqaiq and Khurais, their announcements on the number and type of weapons systems used do not correspond to the information that we have seen. The Houthis claimed that the attacks involved 10 UAVs.
However, the number of impact points observed by the Secretariat shows that the attacks involved a larger number, and different types, of weapons systems – which is consistent with the information provided by Saudi authorities. According to them, the attacks involved at least 18 UAVs, and 7 cruise missiles. In addition, since the publication of the report, United States has shared additional information with us regarding the debris of one of the UAVs, which indicated that this UAV traversed a location about 200km northwest of Abqaiq shortly before the strike.
At this time, we are unable to independently corroborate that the cruise missiles, or the recovered components we inspected, are of Iranian origin. I would like to stress, however, that this is our preliminary finding. We are still very much in the process of reviewing components and subcomponents recovered, as well as collecting and analysing additional information on these cruise missiles.
For example, we have recently received confirmation that some of the cruise missile components were, in fact, not made by the identified manufacturers but could have been copies. The Secretary-General intends to report back to the Security Council on our further findings.
Regarding the UAVs, the Houthis in Yemen are not known to be in possession of the specific delta wing type UAVs used in these attacks. The UAVs were found to be equipped with a type of vertical gyroscope that had been observed on an Iranian UAV reportedly recovered in Afghanistan in 2016. Parts of the UAVs were also produced and transferred between Member States, after 16 January 2016, and as recently as 2018.
Based on our preliminary assessment, the Secretariat is unable to independently corroborate that the UAVs, or the recovered components we examined, are of Iranian origin. As with the cruise missiles, the Secretariat is still actively reviewing components and subcomponents recovered, as well as collecting and analysing additional information on these UAVs. The Secretary-General intends to report back on our further findings.
In addition, I would like to bring to your attention arms-related information that had become available since the publication of the Secretary-General’s report. At the invitation of the United States, the Secretariat travelled to examine arms and related materiel, alleged to be of Iranian origin, which the US seized in international waters off the coast of Yemen, on 25 November 2019. The seized items included anti-tank guided missiles, surface to air missiles, as well as parts of cruise missiles and anti-ship missiles. The anti-tank guided missiles that we saw had production dates as recent as 2018. Their container-launch units also had characteristics consistent with the Iranian-produced Dehlavieh anti-tank guided missile; we had made a similar observation of other ATGM container-launch units seized in Yemen in our sixth report to the Council. The Secretariat is still reviewing the information and will report back to the Council with additional details.
Finally, we were informed of additional travel allegedly untaken by the Commander of the Al-Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Major General Qasem Soleimani, to Iraq in October 2019. We also were informed of alleged cooperation between a Member State’s academic institution with an entity on the 2231 list, as well as several ongoing cooperation agreements in the construction sector between foreign entities and other entities on the list.
The Secretariat has requested clarification from relevant Member States and will report back to the Council.
The Secretary-General considers the full implementation of 2231 by all Member States as an integral component of our collective conflict prevention efforts. This has assumed greater importance in the context of current tensions in the Gulf. The Secretary-General, therefore, calls on Member States to avoid confrontational actions and explore avenues for dialogue and cooperation in the interest of international peace and security.
Let me conclude by acknowledging the leadership of His Excellency Mr. Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve in his role as the Facilitator for the implementation of resolution 2231 and to assure him once again of our full support. I would also like to thank the Coordinator of the Procurement Working Group of the Joint Commission for our continued cooperation.