Representatives of China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and Iran met on 26 February 2020 at a meeting of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). All participants reaffirmed their commitment to the JCPOA and their strong support and collective responsibility for the continuation of key nuclear non-proliferation projects. The meeting follows the announcement on 14 January 2020 that the JCPOA Dispute Resolution Mechanism had been initiated by the E3 Foreign Ministers (see our earlier blog post here); the time limit for Joint Commission consideration of Iran’s actions was extended without a specific deadline at the end of January (extending the 15 day period that was triggered on 14 January).

At the meeting, the Joint Commission Chair highlighted the participants’ serious concerns regarding Iran’s contravention of its nuclear commitments under the JCPOA. This fear was confirmed by the International Atomic Agency, the UN’s atomic watchdog agency, in its leaked report, on 03 March 2020, which concluded that Iran had nearly tripled its stockpile of enriched uranium since November and identified three possible undeclared nuclear sites.

The participants did, however, acknowledge at the meeting that US sanctions prevented Iran from fully benefiting from sanctions relief and reiterated their longstanding concerns regarding the US’ withdrawal from the JCPOA and the re-imposition of sanctions by it. All participants reaffirmed the importance of preserving the agreement, stating that it is a key element of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture; expert-level discussions regarding the agreement and nuclear implementation issues will continue moving forward.

Participants also welcomed the positive developments in the onboarding procedures and processing of first transactions by INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges), a project which remains a European diplomatic priority despite the triggering of the Dispute Resolution Mechanism and Iran’s potential return to the so-called Financial Action Task Force (FATF) “blacklist”.

In early December 2019, six more countries joined as shareholders of the Special Purpose Vehicle. INSTEX and its Iran counterpart, the Special Trade and Finance Instrument (STFI), are looking to increase engagement with those European enterprises with active sales or manufacturing business in Iran.