Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Ceisteanna (27)

Brendan Howlin


27. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the approach of the Government to the decision of the United States of America to reimpose sanctions on Iran and the consequences for a rules-based international order; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21367/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (10 contributions) (Ceist ar Foreign)

Last week the United States unilaterally repudiated the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran. Will the Tánaiste outline the implications for the international order and for the countries of the European Union of that decision?

The straight answer is that it is very complicated now. I had a long dinner with my French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, on Sunday night in Farmleigh and we spent a lot of time talking about this because France is trying to give leadership in this area to try to keep this deal alive, despite the current difficulties.

The Deputy will have seen my statement of 8 May on behalf of the Government, setting out our views and expressing our disappointment with the decision of the United States. Similar statements were issued by the European Union and by other partners.

I have stated clearly in public that the Iran nuclear agreement was a significant diplomatic achievement in the area of non-proliferation, that it was delivering as intended, and that, as verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran had implemented its commitments under the agreement. These views were clearly conveyed to the US Government on a number of occasions, including in recent weeks by President Macron and Chancellor Merkel, and also by the British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, although not directly to President Trump.

It is a matter of great regret that the US has decided to take a different approach from the EU. Speaking for the EU, High Representative Mogherini has emphasised that the agreement was a multilateral one and that all other signatories to it have expressed a hope that it can continue to be implemented. The EU signatories to the agreement, and other parties, have held initial meetings with Iran to discuss that possibility. Ireland will fully support that objective, although the difficulties should not be underestimated.

Looking at the broader picture, Ireland's foreign policy is deeply anchored in the values set out in the Constitution. Those are reflected also in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the principles which underpin the European Union. Ireland is committed to a rules-based international order and to a multilateral approach to global issues.

Having been Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin will know the difficulties of maintaining global commerce if the US is imposing sanctions. We have seen that with Aughinish Alumina recently following sanctions affecting one oligarch in Russia. Countries will need to work together to keep this agreement alive from an Iranian perspective.

That is the net issue I want to pursue. I am very concerned about the implications for the international order. How do we embark, for example, on negotiations in relation to the Korean Peninsula if one party can unilaterally tear up an agreement when everybody has agreed that the other party is fulfilling the terms of the agreement? Specifically, we cannot allow the United States to determine international policy and that we all, regardless of our views, simply follow through.

Could I ask the Minister about the impact on western companies with any links to the United States if the embargo is imposed. I expect it would be very severe. It is estimated that a deadline is being imposed of 90 to 180 days for western companies to disengage. The impact for Ireland could be €143 million of Irish export trade being put at risk, and it could be even more significant for other countries.

In terms of the Minister's discussions with the French foreign Minister and his European colleagues, is it envisaged that the European Union, in conjunction with the Russian Federation and other countries, would work out a system to ensure that countries whose companies want to continue to trade with Iran in support of the agreement that was freely entered into will not be economically impacted by the American decision?

First, it is important to put on the record why the US is going in a different direction. The US sees this deal as one that also needs to deliver a more responsible approach from Iran in terms of its regional influence. It is also concerned about the stockpiling of ballistic missiles. The US is looking at a broader series of issues and linking the continuation of this deal with some of those issues, which is not what the EU and others are doing. This is a nuclear non-proliferation agreement that has been successful and is being monitored accordingly, which is why it is so regrettable if it unravels. I have had an initial conversation with my French colleague who accepts that this is complicated. My experience is that I have met with a reasonable and positive response from decision makers in Washington in terms of trying to be helpful about the impact of US sanctions on Russian individuals. I suspect a lot of negotiation is required if this deal is to survive without US support.

All deals by their nature are imperfect and I do not think any country ever enters into a deal that it regards as perfect, but the Iranian agreement was regarded by all the participant countries, who freely signed up to the deal, as being the best achievable, and everybody is compliant with it. I dare say if a similar deal could be contracted with North Korea, the current American Administration would be delighted to achieve a deal of that scale to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula. That said, the issue is a very straightforward although a very complex one. Either multilateralism - free negotiations and agreements entered into - has the force of law or we will never have international agreements again if a successor government in one country can simply tear up an agreement which it freely entered into in a binding way. It would be like an incoming British Government deciding it is no longer obliged to implement the Good Friday Agreement. That could not be tolerated. International agreements solemnly entered into should be adhered to.

The problem is that the US does not accept that this agreement is being adhered to by Iran. We do not agree but that is the US position.

There is a mechanism within the agreement to determine that.

Yes, and I am not suggesting that this is a good situation. The US is the most powerful country in the world and is by far the biggest influence on global trade, global financial movements and so on. When the US decides to impose sanctions, that impacts on everyone else, particularly in the western world. There is not a single big multinational operating in Europe that does not have interests in the US, whether they be banking, finance or shareholder interests, supply chain systems, technology and so on. That is why the concept of "America first" does not make sense when it comes to foreign policy, when we are trying to operate in a global system that is multilateral by nature. A significant attempt was made by senior EU leaders to find a way forward that did not involve the US abandoning this nuclear deal-----

They were unsuccessful.

Yes, they were unsuccessful and now we need to work together to see what we can do collectively in the absence of US support while also talking to the US to see if we can facilitate the maintenance of the deal without its support.