SHAHEEN TO EUROPEAN PARTNERS: WE MUST STAND UNITED AGAINST IRANIAN NUCLEAR PROGRAM

Shaheen says trade delegations to Iran could undermine sanctions, jeopardize talks

January 30, 2014

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and former Chair of the European Affairs Subcommittee, expressed deep concern to European leaders over recent and upcoming European delegations to Tehran. In letters sent today to the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy as well as ambassadors of Austria, France, Georgia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom, Shaheen said trade delegations to Iran risk undermining the six-month Joint Plan of Action reached with Iran in November.

“It is critical that the U.S. and Europe continue to present a strong, united front in our efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Shaheen said in her letter to Baroness Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. “Delegations to Iran, including those from Europe, are premature and represent a step in the wrong direction as P5+1 negotiators work toward a comprehensive agreement that fully addresses the world’s concerns over the Iranian nuclear program.”

Shaheen added, “These delegations to Iran risk undermining the international sanctions regime at precisely the wrong time.”

While the United States and its partners have been working toward a verifiable resolution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, the vast majority of international sanctions on Iran still remain in place; only modest sanctions relief has been provided to Iran.  Nevertheless, many countries and businesses, particularly in Europe, are eager to take advantage of a potential new market for trade.  But given that the overwhelming majority of international sanctions remain in place, Shaheen says recent and upcoming delegations “misrepresent the nature of the relief being provided” and “send the message to Tehran that sanctions are abating.” Shaheen urged the diplomatic representatives to convey these pressing concerns to the highest levels of their respective governments. 

The full text of Shaheen’s letter to Baroness Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, is included below. Similar letters were sent to the ambassadors of Austria, France, Georgia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

January 30, 2014

Baroness Catherine Ashton

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

European Union

Brussels, Belgium

Dear Baroness Ashton:

I write today to express my appreciation for your diplomatic efforts aimed at ensuring that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.  I have been particularly impressed by your work to develop consensus among the P5+1 member states that directly enabled the Joint Plan of Action to be reached with Iran last November.  As you know, cooperation between the United States and the European Union on both sanctions and diplomacy has been critical in developing this opening with Iran. 

Given the importance of continued U.S-EU cooperation on Iran, I am deeply troubled by recent reports of EU member states sending or preparing to send extensive government and trade delegations to Iran.  These delegations misrepresent the nature of the sanctions relief provided under the Joint Plan of Acton and send the message to Tehran that sanctions are abating.  That is the wrong message.  As Treasury Under Secretary David Cohen stated last week, “Iran is not open for business.”  In fact, under the terms of the Joint Plan of Action, Iran will be provided $6-7 billion sanctions relief over the next six months only if it complies fully with the terms of the agreement.  Over this period, the overwhelming majority of international sanctions on Iran will remain in place.  Moreover, it is far from certain that Iran will take the needed steps for a comprehensive agreement on its nuclear program to be reached.

It is critical that the U.S. and Europe continue to present a strong, united front in our efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  Delegations to Iran, including those from Europe, are premature and represent a step in the wrong direction as P5+1 negotiators work towards a comprehensive agreement that fully addresses the world’s concerns over the Iranian nuclear program.  These delegations to Iran risk undermining the international sanctions regime at precisely the wrong time.  I respectfully request that you convey these concerns to your member states.

Thank you for your consideration, your continued leadership in deepening our transatlantic ties and your ongoing efforts to address our concerns over Iran’s nuclear activities.

Sincerely, 

Jeanne Shaheen

United States Senator