The decision of the United States to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement (JCPOA) is a matter of great regret. I have stated clearly on a number of occasions that the Iran nuclear agreement was a significant diplomatic achievement, that it was delivering as intended, and that, as verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran had implemented its commitments under the agreement. Ireland's views on this have been clearly conveyed to the US Government on a number of occasions. We do share the US's concerns about Iran's activities in the region, including its ballistic missile programme, and poor human rights record, but believe that none of these issues can be better addressed without the JCPOA in place.
While EU and UN sanctions were not reimposed following the US decision last year, US sanctions have deterred some EU trade with Iran. However, other EU partners have been more exposed than Ireland in this regard, as two of the most important sectors for Ireland, foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals/medical equipment, were never subject to sanctions. The fact that US financial sanctions had remained in place, even after the signing of the nuclear agreement, has meant that Irish banks have continued to be very cautious in handling payments originating in Iran. This had already been a significant factor inhibiting significant growth in trade with Iran. However, bilateral trade has increased since the implementation of the nuclear deal.
The E-3 group (France, Germany and the UK) have established INSTEX, a special purpose vehicle designed to insulate financial transactions with Iran from the US financial system and US sanctions. Ireland fully supports the establishment of INSTEX, and while it is not yet in operation, I am hopeful that it will be able to deliver as intended.
Ireland and the EU will continue to endeavour to ensure the effective implementation of the JCPOA and adherence to its commitments by all remaining parties. Ireland believes that there is no credible peaceful alternative to the JCPOA.
While Iran's frustration with the impact on their economy of the US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement is understandable, I nevertheless deeply regret comments made by Iran last month indicating that it may not continue to adhere to the JCPOA. Ireland's and the EU's view is that all parties to the agreement should continue to implement their commitments. The Middle East is a safer region with the JCPOA in operation, and would be less safe without it.