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Israeli envoy to UN: Vote 'will destabilize the Middle East'

UN Security Council votes to let Iran arms embargo expire, rejecting US demands

US resolution to extend weapons ban resoundingly defeated; Pompeo says Israel, Gulf states expect Tehran to ‘spread chaos and destruction’ after embargo lifted in October

Missiles are fired in an Iranian military exercise by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, July 28, 2020. (Sepahnews via AP)
Missiles are fired in an Iranian military exercise by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, July 28, 2020. (Sepahnews via AP)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The UN Security Council on Friday resoundingly defeated a US resolution that sought to indefinitely extend the UN arms embargo on Iran.

The vote in the 15-member council was two in favor, two against and 11 abstentions, leaving it far short of the minimum nine “yes” votes required for adoption. Russia and China strongly opposed the resolution, but didn’t need to use their vetoes.

The Trump administration received support from only the Dominican Republic.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the defeat of the resolution ahead of a very brief virtual council meeting to reveal the vote.

He said Israel and the six Arab Gulf nations who supported the extension “know Iran will spread even greater chaos and destruction if the embargo expires, but the Security Council chose to ignore them.”

“The United States will never abandon our friends in the region who expected more from the Security Council,” Pompeo said in a statement. “We will continue to work to ensure that the theocratic terror regime does not have the freedom to purchase and sell weapons that threaten the heart of Europe, the Middle East and beyond.”

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, called the UN decision “a disgrace.”

“The council has utterly failed in its responsibility of maintaining international peace and security. This decision will further destabilize the Middle East, and increase the spread of violence around the world,” Erdan said.

The Trump administration has said repeatedly it will not allow the arms embargo provision in the Security Council resolution endorsing the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and six major powers to expire as scheduled on October 18.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo holds a joint news conference with Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg in Vienna, Austria, August 14, 2020. (Lisi Niesner/Pool via AP)

US President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement in 2018 but the five remaining parties — Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — still support it.

The agreement is aimed at preventing the Islamic Republic from developing nuclear weapons and diplomats from several of the other countries that are party to it have expressed serious concern that extending the arms embargo would lead to Iran’s exit from the agreement, and in turn to fast-tracking its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

While voting on the US draft resolution was underway, Russia said President Vladimir Putin called for a meeting of leaders of the five permanent members of the Security Council along with Germany and Iran to avoid escalation over US attempts to extend the Iranian arms embargo.

In statement released by the Kremlin, Putin said “the question is urgent,“ adding that the goal of the videoconference would be “to outline steps to avoid confrontation and exacerbation of the situation in the UN Security Council,”

”If the leaders are fundamentally ready for a conversation, we propose to promptly coordinate the agenda,” Putin said. “The alternative is to further build up tension, to increase the risk of conflict. This development must be avoided.”

French President Emmanuel Macron’s office confirmed France’s “availability in principle” to Putin’s proposal. “We have in the past deployed initiatives in the same spirit,” it said.

On Thursday, US Ambassador Kelly Craft said in an interview with The Associated Press that the United States is “keeping the space open” for talks with Britain, France and Germany, as well as Russia and China.

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft speaks during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters in New York, February 11, 2020. (Seth Wenig/AP)

She urged the three European nations that support the nuclear deal — Britain, France and Germany — to put in writing their ideas to extend the expiring arms embargo on Iran, indicating the Trump administration may be willing compromise on its demand for an indefinite extension. She said they had mentioned a six-month or one-year extension.

European diplomats said the three countries share the US goal of maintaining the arms embargo but need to find a compromise with Russia and China. The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions have been private, said the Europeans had offered a compromise proposal but the US, Russia and China showed no willingness to compromise.

In separate letters to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council last month, Russia and China were sharply critical of the US effort to indefinitely extend the arms embargo, indicating they would veto any such resolution if it got the minimum nine “yes” votes in the 15-member council.

Brian Hook, the outgoing US envoy for Iran, told reporters Thursday that Iran backs Hezbollah militants in Lebanon and proxies elsewhere in the Middle East, and is responsible for over 600 American deaths in Iraq and thousands of wounded. He underscored the support for the indefinite arms embargo extension from the six feuding nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak of the devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, in the capital Tehran, September 22, 2018. (Stringer/AFP)

Russia’s Sergey Lavrov and China’s Wang Yi said that since Trump pulled America out of the nuclear deal, the US has no legal right to try to use the UN resolution endorsing the agreement to indefinitely continue the embargo.

Pompeo has suggested the US would invoke the “snap back” mechanism in the 2015 nuclear deal that would restore all UN sanctions on Iran. “Snap back” was envisioned in the event Iran was proven to be in violation of the accord, under which it received billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

“Obviously we will use the most important tool, whatever it is, whether it’s `snap back,’ whether it is hopefully just going into the council and extending this renewal, we will not take no for an answer,” Craft said Thursday.

Also Thursday, the US circulated to council members a six-page memo outlining why the United States remains part of the 2015 Security Council resolution and still has the right to use the ‘snap back’ provision.

“It is clear that letting the arms embargo expire would be very bad for peace and security in the region and beyond the region,” Hook told reporters Thursday. “Allowing the arms embargo to expire on a terrorist regime would be negligent. It would be an act of gross irresponsibility.”

Craft said council members face a choice between “sponsoring terrorism” or promoting international peace and security.

“We have a moral responsibility to make certain that this murderous regime does not have access any longer to exporting and to arming its proxies,” Craft said.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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