Tehran: Iran has criticized the European Union for failing to set up a payment mechanism meant to circumvent US sanctions, warning that the bloc should account for the “consequences” of the delay.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran holds Europe definitely responsible for failing to implement the financial mechanism called the SPV,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said.
The SPV or the special purpose vehicle is a virtual clearing house which the Europeans have been working on for months to process Iran-related transactions independent of the US but the mechanism has yet to see the light of the day.
So far, the Europeans have failed twice to fulfill their promises to get the system up and running in order to persuade Iran to remain in a landmark 2015 nuclear deal known as the JCPOA after the US abandoned it.
The EU first pledged to make it operational before the US sanctions went into effect in August 2018. Last month, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said she expected the instrument to be established before the end of the year but that date also passed without any explanation.
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says the bloc will not allow any foreign meddling in Brussels’ legitimate trade ties with other countries amid US attempts to hinder the EU’s business relations with Iran.
Mogherini said on Wednesday that efforts to implement the special purpose vehicle for trade with Iran will continue into 2019 but Qassemi warned that Iran’s patience was running thin.
“The Europeans, as the main culprit, should consider the consequences of their decision, because Iran has so far honored all its JCPOA commitments, but ultimately there is a limit to Iran’s patience. Hence, it is about time the EU made a strategic decision and chose its path,” he said.
Qassemi cited “the domination of the dollar and the interconnectedness of the European and American economies” as the reasons behind the delay, state news agency IRNA reported.
“The European Union and even the three European parties to the deal with Iran are captive and hostage to the American economy, so they need to decide for their independence,” he said.
Iran is already angry with the EU over its failure to stop European companies from leaving the Islamic Republic.
US sanctions will take six months to kick in, but a number of European companies have already halted their business in Iran.
“European countries should pay for their independence from the United States, because doing so cannot be without costs, especially for the implementation of important historical tasks such as the SPV, which could be a major milestone for European solidarity on the global stage; so the European countries need to make a decision at this point and juncture,” Qassemi said.
Qassemi said while the Europeans started with goodwill and showed a “positive political will” to set up a financial mechanism, “over time and during negotiations over the past months, they are reinforcing the impression that the European states face a series of serious disabilities in implementing the SPV.”
The US secretary of state claims his country’s cruel sanctions against Iran are aimed at allowing Iranian people to “have better lives.”
“The US imposition of sanctions against the Iranian nation with the logic of improving their lives is hurting the sentiments of Iranians and is totally wrong.
“Hence, Pompeo should watch the mood in which he speaks. Is it possible to sanction the Iranian people and, like they [US authorities] say, exert more pressure on them in order to bring more relief to them?” Qassemi said.
Trump to meet Kim Jong-un again in late February: White House
WASHINGTON: The White House announced that US President Donald Trump will hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in late February.
During the meeting, the two leaders will hold talks over the steps taken by Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear and missile programmes. It may be recalled that the first meeting between the two leaders was held on June 12, 2018 in Singapore. The White House, however, did not reveal where the two leaders will meet in February.
The White House made the announcement shortly after Trump held a meeting with North Korean envoy, Kim Yong Chol, on Friday for a discussion that included talk about Kim Jong-un’s unfulfilled pledge to dismantle nuclear weapons programmes of North Korea.
“President Donald J Trump met with Kim Yong Chol for an hour and half, to discuss denuclearization and a second summit, which will take place near the end of February. The president looks forward to meeting with Chairman Kim at a place to be announced at a later date,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
The press secretary told reporters: “We continue to make progress, we continue to have conversations. The US is going to continue to keep “pressure and sanctions” on North Korea until “we see fully and verifiable denuclearization”. We had very good steps and very good faith from the North Koreans with the release of hostages and other moves and so we’ll continue this conversation.And the President looks forward to it next February.”
Kim yong Chol arrived at the White House after meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US special envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun at a hotel in Washington.
“The Secretary, Special Representative Biegun, and Vice Chairman Kim discussed efforts to make progress on the commitments President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un made at their summit in Singapore. At the conclusion of the Secretary’s meeting with Vice Chairman Kim, the two sides held a productive first meeting at the working level,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said.
Blast targets Al Qaeda ally in Syria, kills 11
BEIRUT: An explosion outside an office belonging to an Al Qaeda-linked group in Syria’s northwest killed at least 11 people and wounded several others, opposition activists said.
The blast comes a week after members of the Al Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Arabic for Levant Liberation Committee, or HTS, took over control of wide parts of Idlib province and the surrounding countryside after forcing rival insurgents to accept a deal for a civil administration run by HTS in their areas.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Smart news agency, an activist collective, said the blast occurred on the southern edge of the rebel-held city of Idlib.
The observatory said 11 people were killed in the blast, including seven HTS members. Smart said 12 people were killed, many of them militants.
In the country’s east, an air strike in the last area held by the militant Islamic State group killed at least 20 people.
State news agency SANA said 20 people were killed in the air strike on the IS-held village of Baghouz, while the observatory said 23 people were killed including 10 IS members.
They both blamed the US-led coalition that has been providing air cover to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in their monthslong offensive to capture the area from extremists near the Iraqi border.
The SDF has intensified its offensive over the past weeks on the IS-held area.
Meanwhile in Turkey, President Tayyip Erdogan met with US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to discuss the situation in Syria as the United States prepares to withdraw troops.
Graham, a prominent voice on foreign affairs in the US, met with Erdogan and other Turkish officials on Friday for talks that were also expected to include a proposal for the creation of a “safe zone” in northeast Syria.
The visit comes days after a suicide bombing, claimed by IS, killed two US service members and two American civilians in the northeastern town of Manbij.
Graham has said he is concerned that US President Donald Trump’s troop withdrawal announcement had emboldened IS militants and created dangerous uncertainty for American allies.
The Pentagon identified three of the four Americans killed in the suicide bomb attack in Manbij Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer, 37, of Boynton Beach, Florida, who was based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent, 35, from upstate New York and based at Fort Meade, Maryland; and a civilian, Scott A. Wirtz, from St. Louis.
The Pentagon hasn’t identified the fourth casualty, a civilian contractor.
Pakistan rules out India’s role in Afghan peace process
Islamabad: Pakistan has ruled out any role for India in the Afghan peace process, the media reported on Friday.
“India has no role in Afghanistan,” Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said at the weekly media briefing on Thursday while responding to a query about Islamabad’s position on New Delhi’s part in the reconciliation process.
Faisal acknowledged that Pakistan has a difficult relationship with India, saying that despite Pakistan’s efforts for normalisation, no concrete progress could be achieved in ties with India, Dawn news reported.
“You all know that India is not willing to engage with Pakistan,” he reminded.
Faisal’s remarks were in sharp contrast to what Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had told the National Assembly last month.
“Since India is present in Afghanistan, its cooperation in this regard (facilitating a negotiated settlement of the Afghan conflict) will also be required,” he had told legislators.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Pakistan on Thursday to discuss with the senior civil and military leadership the latest efforts to bring peace to the war-torn country.
Khalilzad, who met Taliban representatives last month in Abu Dhabi, is leading an inter-agency delegation to India, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan from January 8-21 to “facilitate a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan”.