Exclusive: U.S. warns Russia, China of U.N. isolation if Iran arms ban extension blocked
By Michelle Nichols and Humeyra Pamuk
NEW YORK / WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Russia and China will be isolated from the United Nations if they continue the "road to dystopia" by blocking a US offer to extend a ban on weapons to Iran, the US-Iranian envoy said Brian Hook previously told Reuters his formal lifting of the embargo on the UN Security Council on Wednesday.
The 13-year-old arms restrictions for Iran expire in October as part of the 2015 Tehran nuclear deal with the world powers. Russia and China have signaled that they are against an extension of the embargo.
While Washington has long argued that the embargo should not be lifted, the international community has been waiting for it to proceed formally. Hook and the United States Ambassador to the United States, Kelly Craft, argued why the 15-member Council should support a draft resolution to extend the embargo behind closed doors on Wednesday.
"We see a growing divide between Russia and China and the international community," Hook said in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday evening.
"Russia and China were isolated last week at the (International Atomic Energy Agency) and will be isolated on the Security Council if they continue on this path to dystopia," said Hook.
The IAEA Board of Governors of 35 nations on Friday urged Iran to give the United States' nuclear security guard access to two locations suspected of having nuclear weapons and to cooperate fully. Iranian allies Russia and China opposed this step, but were unable to block it while they have veto rights on the Security Council.
A Council resolution requires nine votes and no vetoes from the United States, China, Russia, Great Britain or France.
"There is no way for his adoption," said a Chinese diplomat on condition of anonymity after Hook and Craft informed the council's envoys. "The U.S. resolution is essentially a continuation of the US maximum pressure policy [towards Iran] and has no value or basis for discussion."
Earlier this month, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urged Russia and China to oppose Washington's move and promised to "improve our defense capabilities as we did so under sanctions."
"The expansion of the arms embargo is the right and necessary thing, and every member of the Security Council knows whether to say it publicly or not," Hook said.
"The embargo has not prevented all Iranian arms transfers, but the export and import bans have clearly limited Iran's behavior," he argued.
The United States released the draft resolution on Monday after Secretary-General of the United States, Antonio Guterres, told the council earlier this month that cruise missiles were used in several attacks on oil facilities and an international airport in Saudi Arabia last year were "of Iranian origin".
If the United States fails to extend the embargo, it will face the return of all United States sanctions against Iran through a process agreed in the 2015 nuclear deal, even though the United States terminated the deal in 2018.
Such a move would kill the nuclear deal that the United States and others touted in 2015 to suspend Tehran's suspected urge to develop nuclear weapons, and diplomats say Washington would face a tough battle in the Council.
The United States argues that it can trigger the sanctions because a United States resolution that enshrines the 2015 nuclear deal still names Washington as a participant.
Iran violated parts of the nuclear deal in response to the US withdrawal and Washington reintroduction of sanctions.
Rouhani said on Wednesday that Tehran would be open to talks with the United States if Washington apologized for the termination of the nuclear deal and compensated Tehran.
"We are happy to talk to them when the time is right, but the conditions that indicate that we are giving the Iranians a lot of money to fuel terrorism around the world are simply ridiculous," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols in New York and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Washington; editing by Paul Simao and Grant McCool)
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