Major Powers, Iran Meet To Salvage Nuclear Deal Without US

UNITED NATIONS: Iran has ample reason to stay in the 2015 nuclear deal despite the U.S. withdrawal and the remaining parties on Monday will discuss ways to blunt the effect of impending U.S. sanctions on Tehran, the European Union's foreign policy chief said.

Speaking before a gathering of senior officials from Britain, China, Germany, Russia and Iran, the EU's Federica Mogherini made the case for Iran remaining in the deal that US President Donald Trump abandoned on May 8.

"An essential part of the agreement and its implementation regards Iran having the possibility of benefiting from the lifting of sanctions, and this is exactly why we are discussing tonight, operational concrete steps that we can put in place," Mogherini told reporters before the talks at the United Nations.

"Iran has good arguments and good reasons to remain in the agreement. ... the more operational decisions we will manage to take and ... implement, I believe the more Iran will have reasons to do," she added.

The European Union, however, has so far failed to devise a workable legal framework to shield its companies from US sanctions that go into effect in November and that, among other things, seek to choke off Iran's oil sales, diplomats said.

Highlighting just how difficult it will be for the Europeans to come up with concrete solutions, French state-owned bank Bpifrance on Monday abandoned its plan to set up a financial mechanism to aid French companies trading with Iran.

The crux of the deal, negotiated over almost two years by the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama, was that Iran would restrain its nuclear program in return for the relaxation of sanctions that had crippled its economy.

Trump considered it flawed because it did not include curbs on Iran's ballistic missiles program or its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.

The United States began reimposing economic sanctions this summer and the most draconian measures, which seek to force Iran's major customers to stop buying its oil, resume Nov. 5.

Their impending return has contributed to a slide in Iran's currency. The rial has lost about two-thirds of its value this year, hitting a record low against the U.S. dollar this month.

There are limits to what the EU can do to counter the oil sanctions, under which Washington can cut off from the US financial system any bank that facilitates an oil transaction with Iran.

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Humanitarian Ship seeks European Port for Rescued Migrants

More than 650,000 migrants have come to Italy’s shores since 2014, but the numbers of new arrivals have plunged over the past year, with Rome encouraging the Libyan coastguard to carry out most of the rescues.

Human rights groups called on European governments on Sunday to tell a charity ship where it can dock and let more than 140 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean disembark in safety.

RELATED: Spain Takes in Drifting Migrant Ship Aquarius as UN, EU Slam Italy Over Refusing It

The Aquarius, run by Franco-German charity SOS Mediterranee and Doctors without Borders (MSF), rescued 141 people in two separate operations off the Libyan coast last week.

The boat had just started heading north on Sunday toward Europe when Libyan coastguards called it back to pick up 10 migrants spotted aboard a small fiberglass boat.

As that rescue was underway, SOS Mediterranee and MSF asked for guidance on where to take those they had saved.

“What is of utmost importance is that the survivors are brought to a place of safety without delay, where their basic needs can be met and where they can be protected from abuse,” said Nick Romaniuk, search and rescue coordinator for SOS Mediterranee.

SOS Mediterranee and MSF accused the Libyan coastguard on Sunday of endangering lives by not telling the Aquarius there were boats close to it that were in distress. They also said other ships in the area had apparently ignored the migrants.

“Ships might be unwilling to respond to those in distress due to the high risk of being stranded and denied a place of safety,” said Aloys Vimard, MSF’s project coordinator on board the Aquarius. “Policies designed to prevent people from reaching Europe at all costs are resulting in more suffering and forcing those who are already vulnerable to take even riskier journeys to safety.”

The Aquarius has operated in the central Mediterranean since early 2016 and says it has helped more than 29,000 people in distress, many of them African migrants, who, until this summer, were brought swiftly to Italy without any incident.

However, when a populist government took office in Rome in June, it immediately shut its ports to all NGO boats, accusing them of encouraging illegal immigration and helping human smugglers — charges the charities deny.

In June, the orange-hulled Aquarius picked up 629 migrants, including scores of children and seven pregnant women, but first Italy and then Malta refused to let it dock, provoking a row within the heart of the European Union over immigration policy.

Spain eventually agreed to take in the boat, but there was no indication of where the Aquarius might head on Sunday, with Malta immediately refusing it access and Italy saying at the weekend it would not be welcome at any of its ports.

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Rouhani blasts Trump’s ‘psychological warfare’ as Iran braces for US sanctions

Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani has slammed US President Donald Trump’s offer for direct talks as a disingenuous PR stunt for domestic consumption while the “untrustworthy” Washington only increases its sanctions against Tehran.

In his first public statement since Trump signed an executive order reinstating sanctions against Tehran, Rouhani said that he will not negotiate with Washington while being sanctioned at same time, describing such tactics as “psychological warfare [against] the Iranian nation,” adding that “Trump’s call for direct talks is only for domestic consumption in America ... and to create chaos in Iran.”

The Iranian president said that while his government favored dialogue, such talks required “honesty.”

“The US reimposes sanctions on Iran and pulls out of the nuclear deal, and then wants to hold talks with us,” Rouhani said in a Monday speech broadcast live on state television.

 
© Damir Sagolj

 

He went on to compare Trump’s alleged offer to stabbing someone with a knife, while claiming to only seek peaceful dialogue. “They’re imposing sanctions upon Iranian children, patients, and the people,” Rouhani said. He called on the White House to sign back on to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal if was indeed serious about negotiating with Tehran.

The first round of renewed US sanctions will take effect on Tuesday after midnight US Eastern time, with harsher measures expected to be implemented in early November. Washington is reinstating measures that were lifted under the nuclear deal, after unilaterally withdrawing from the historic Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Tehran in May.

The 2015 agreement, which placed tight controls on Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions, was signed by Iran, the United States, Russia, China and the European Union.

Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the deal been widely condemned by the EU and other signatories, raising questions among European nations about whether the United States could still be considered a reliable transatlantic partner. The European Commission has stated that despite US sanctions, European companies will continue doing business in Iran under Brussels’ protection.

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Spain can't absorb 'millions of Africans,' new opposition leader tells government

Spain is the new centre of Europe's migrant crisis - and Conservative Popular Party leader Pablo Casado has blamed the socialist government after they accepted migrant rescue boat the Aquarius, which Italy had turned away.

The rescue boat, which carried 630 migrants, has been operated since February 2016 by SOS Méditerranée and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Italy and Malta rejected the rescue boat in June, sparking a bitter row within the European Union with the two countries demanding another member of the bloc take in the migrants on board. The ship ended up docking in Valencia; a move that Casado warned may be seen as a welcome sign for more arrivals.

Now, the freshly minted Conservative Popular Party leader, who replaced Mariano Rajoy only a fortnight ago, has hit out at the current Spanish government who are seen to have brought a soft touch on migration. Casado stated that Spain can't "absorb millions of Africans who want to come to Europe", according to the Times, adding that "it is not possible that there are papers for all" who came to Spain on board the rescue boat.

 
African migrants in this still image from video climb the border from Morocco to Spain's North African enclave of Ceuta, Spain, July 26, 2018

The Spanish Government hit back at Casado's words, with a government a spokeswoman saying that Casado's suggestion that taking in the Aquarius means arrivals will increase is "false". She added: "When Italy closed its ports and the route to Greece was harder, this made more migrants head to Spain. It needs a European response."

Spain's newly in office Socialist prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has said following the acceptance of the Aquarius and her migrant passengers that it is Spain's "obligation to help avoid a humanitarian disaster by offering a safe harbor to these people."

The Red Cross has confirmed that the influx of migrants is exhausting humanitarian resources in Spain. Red Cross migrant and refugee department head in the southern coastal port city of Málaga David Ortiz told Politico that the charity is "seeing double the numbers arriving compared to the same period last year". While Ortiz said the Red Cross can manage the high number of migrants, when "300 people arrive on the same day, it gets difficult," he admitted.

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Rohani to US: Choose Mother of All Peace or Mother of All Wars

Sunday was an agitated day for international relations, the Iranian Government and Washington have exchanged threats. 

Sunday was an agitated day for international relations, with the Iranian Government and the Washington exchanging threats. Iran's President Hassan Rohani warned U.S. President Donald Trump not to "play with fire, or you will regret."

RELATED: Pompeo: 'US Will Crush Iran With Strongest Sanctions in History'

"We are noble people and we have guaranteed in the history security of the Strait in the region," President Rohani said in the meeting with Iranian representatives in foreign countries. The remark references the sanctions imposed by the U.S. Government on Iran after the Trump Administration exited the deal, in May, which restricted Iran's nuclear activities.

The United States sanctioned Iran in a unilateral way and against the disapproval of the other countries that signed the agreement in 2015. France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia and China were parties to the agreement.

"Whenever the EU countries were on the verge of reaching an agreement with Iran, the White House would block the deal," President Rohani said, adding that "the Americans should come to realize that establishing peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and waging war with the country is mother of all wars," news agency IRNA reported.

These declarations were met by threatening responses from Washington.

President Trump wrote, in a tweet, to President Rohani "Never, ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before."

The U.S. leader added that they are a country that will not tolerate "words of violence and death."

RELATED: Iran, EU Decry Trump's Withdrawal from Nuclear Deal

While attending an event at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Center for Public Affairs in California, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the Iranian Government "resembles the mafia more than a government."

The U.S. Government's strategy to pressure Iran is based on a diplomatic campaign to impose financial sanctions mainly on its oil and energy sector.

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CELAC and EU call for end of U.S. blockade of Cuba

The foreign ministers of the European Union and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) called Tuesday for the end of the blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States, since "it has caused undue humanitarian consequences for the Cuban people." 

"We reiterate our rejection of the application of those coercive measures of a unilateral nature with extraterritorial effect," the ministers said in the statement signed after a meeting in Brussels of the EU and CELAC foreign officials. 

The ministers also reaffirmed their rejection of the application of the extraterritorial provisions of the Helms-Burton Act, approved by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, which states that any non-U.S. company operating in Cuba may be subject to legal reprisals. 

In this regard, representatives of the EU and CELAC stressed that the United Nations General Assembly had adopted a resolution condemning this blockade, which was only opposed by the United States and Israel. 

"These measures are damaging the legitimate development of commercial ties between Cuba, the European Union and other countries," concluded the EU and CELAC foreign ministers. 

Edited by Pavel Jacomino
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Cuba Deems As Vital to Advance in CELAC-EU Cooperation

Cuban Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Abelardo Moreno today deemed as vital to advance in cooperation between the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the European Union (EU) despite the differences between the two regions.

When speaking at the second CELAC-EU ministerial meeting, the Vice Minister assured that it is possible to identify points of convergence such as the proliferation of protectionist measures, the extraterritorial application of national legislations and the defense of multilateralism.

bloqueo abelardo moreno 580x286

'We work on the issues of women, children, climate change and drugs, the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, and even, the negotiation of a World Agreement for a safe, regular and orderly migration,' he urged. Moreno stressed CELAC is willing to strengthen cooperation with the EU 'under the guidance of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, and with due respect for our diversity.'

He likewise indicated, 'policies that proliferate today in violation of international law constitute an affront to humanity,' and also recalled that waves of refugees and migrants face situations of high vulnerability.

On Monday, the meeting began in Brussels, which will last two days with the participation of senior representatives of the 33 member countries of CELAC and 28 of the EU.

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Iran threatens to cut cooperation with nuclear body after Trump move

LONDON (Reuters) - Iran could reduce its co-operation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, President Hassan Rouhani told the body’s head on Wednesday, after he warned U.S. President Donald Trump of “consequences” of fresh sanctions against Iranian oil sales.

In May, Trump pulled out of a multinational deal under which sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for curbs to its nuclear program, verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Washington has since told countries they must stop buying Iranian oil from Nov. 4 or face financial measures.

“Iran’s nuclear activities have always been for peaceful purposes, but it is Iran that would decide on its level of cooperation with the IAEA,” Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted Rouhani as saying after meeting IAEA head Yukiya Amano in Vienna.

“The responsibility for the change of Iran’s cooperation level with the IAEA falls on those who have created this new situation,” he added.

Rouhani said earlier in the day Tehran would stand firm against U.S. threats to cut Iranian oil sales.

“The Americans say they want to reduce Iranian oil exports to zero ... It shows they have not thought about its consequences,” Rouhani was quoted as saying by IRNA.

On Tuesday, Rouhani hinted at a threat to disrupt oil shipments from neighboring countries if Washington tries to cut its exports.

He did not elaborate, but an Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander explicitly said on Wednesday Iran would block any exports of crude for the Gulf in retaliation for hostile U.S. action.

“If they want to stop Iranian oil exports, we will not allow any oil shipment to pass through the Strait of Hormuz,” Ismail Kowsari was quoted as saying by the Young Journalists Club (YJC) website.

Major-General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds force, in charge of foreign operations for the Revolutionary Guards, said in a letter published on IRNA: “I kiss your (Rouhani’s) hand for expressing such wise and timely comments, and I am at your service to implement any policy that serves the Islamic Republic.”

“SELF HARM”

Rouhani, in Vienna trying to salvage the nuclear deal, said U.S. sanctions were a “crime and aggression”, and called on European and other governments to stand up to Trump.

“Iran will survive this round of U.S. sanctions as it has survived them before. This U.S. government will not stay in office forever ... But history will judge other nations based on what they do today,” he said.

Rouhani told reporters that if the remaining signatories - the Europeans Britain, France and Germany as well as China and Russia - can guarantee Iran’s benefits: “Iran will remain in the nuclear deal without the United States.”

Iran’s OPEC governor, Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, said on the Iranian oil ministry news agency SHANA:

“Trump’s demand that Iranian oil should not be bought, and (his) pressures on European firms at a time when Nigeria and Libya are in crisis, when Venezuela’s oil exports have fallen due to U.S. sanctions, when Saudi’s domestic consumption has increased in summer, is nothing but self harm.

“It will increase the prices of oil in the global markets,” he said. “At the end it is the American consumer who will pay the price for Mr. Trump’s policy.”

The European Union, once Iran’s biggest oil importer, has vowed to keep the 2015 deal alive without the United States by trying to keep Iran’s oil and investment flowing. But European officials acknowledge that U.S. sanctions make it difficult to give Tehran guarantees.

Foreign ministers from the five remaining signatories will meet Iranian officials in Vienna on Friday to discuss how to keep the accord alive.

Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; additional reporting Francois Murphy and Kirsti Knolle in Vienna; Editing by Toby Chopra and Robin Pomeroy.

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