Iran shuns talks with US as Security Council urges calm

Tehran envoy to UN says atmosphere for dialogue not ripe after Washington slaps new sanctions on Islamic Republic; statement from world powers does not single out Iran

Iranian envoy to the UN Majid Takht Ravanchi briefs journalists outside the Security Council on June 24, 2019. (Loey Felipe/UN)
Iranian envoy to the UN Majid Takht Ravanchi briefs journalists outside the Security Council on June 24, 2019. (Loey Felipe/UN)

UNITED NATIONS — The UN Security Council on Monday called for dialogue and measures to end tensions in the Gulf, but Iran rejected talks with the United States after President Donald Trump imposed fresh sanctions.

In a unanimous press statement drafted by Kuwait, the council condemned recent attacks on oil tankers, calling them a threat to the world’s energy supply and to international peace and security.

After a two-hour meeting, the council agreed on a statement that did not single out Iran but made clear that all sides should back away from a much-feared military confrontation.

That joint stance from world powers came just hours after Trump slapped new sanctions on Iran, targeting supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and eight Iranian commanders.

US President Donald Trump holds up a signed executive order to increase sanctions on Iran, in the Oval Office of the White House, June 24, 2019, in Washington. Trump is accompanied by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, left, and Vice President Mike Pence. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

As the council met behind closed doors at Washington’s request, Iran’s UN ambassador told reporters that conditions were not ripe for dialogue with the United States.

“You cannot start a dialogue with somebody who is threatening you, who is intimidating you,” said Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi, who said the “atmosphere of such a dialogue is not ready yet.”

The council said all concerned parties and all countries in the region must “exercise maximum restraint and take measures and actions to reduce escalation and tension.”

“Council members urge that differences must be addressed peacefully and through dialogue,” said the statement backed by both Russia, a friend of Iran, and the United States.

Britain, France and Germany separately called for “de-escalation and dialogue, with full respect for international rules.”

US presents evidence

The Iranian ambassador told reporters that the United States must stop “its economic war against the Iranian people” and renewed an offer to hold regional talks on security, under UN auspices.

“As long as this threat is there, there is no way that Iran and the US can start a dialogue,” said the ambassador.

Tensions have soared after Iran last week shot down a US surveillance drone that Tehran insists had ventured into its airspace — a claim rejected by Washington.

General Amir Ali Hajizadeh (C), Iran’s Head of the Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division, looks at debris from a downed US drone reportedly recovered within Iran’s territorial waters and put on display by the Revolutionary Guard in the capital Tehran on June 21, 2019. (Meghdad Madadi / TASNIM NEWS / AFP)

Trump triggered international alarm when he said on Friday that he had called off US military strikes against Iran at the last minute because he decided there would be too much collateral damage.

During the meeting, the United States presented evidence which it says shows that Iran was behind recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, using divers who placed mines on the ship’s haul.

US envoy to the UN Jonathan Cohen speaks to journalists outside the Security Council on June 24, 2019. (Loey Felipe/UN)

Tehran has denied responsibility for those attacks.

US Acting Ambassador Jonathan Cohen nevertheless said “the only state actor with the capabilities and the motive to carry out these attacks is Iran.”

UN diplomats said the United States pressed to have a mention of a “state actor” responsible for the tanker attacks in the press statement, but that Russia rejected the language.

The Security Council is set on Wednesday to discuss the Iran nuclear deal that the United States has exited and that the Europeans are struggling to salvage.

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