Iran will partially withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, the Islamic Republic announced on Wednesday, on the one-year anniversary of America's exit from the agreement.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran will give 60 days for signatories to return to negotiating financial and oil deals. Failure to implement the “promises” will mean Tehran’s partial withdrawal from the deal.
International partners still agreed to the deal urged Iran to remain. Russia blamed the US withdrawal for the current deterioration.
Speaking to reporters in Moscow, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif said Iran would be partially withdrawing from the 2015 agreement.
“Articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA [the nuclear deal] authorise Iran and, of course, other members not to implement partly or completely their commitments if any party did not comply,” Iranian state news agency, Irna, quoted him as saying.
He said the details of Iran's withdrawal would be announced in the country's Supreme National Security Council – a major body composed of the country’s top leaders.
Mr Zarif said the move was in response to the American withdrawal from the JCPOA, saying that Washington’s decisions under the Donald Trump administration were aimed at derailing the deal.
"After a year of patience, Iran stops measures that US has made impossible to continue," Mr Zarif tweeted.
Mr Zarif is in Russia to hold talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov about bilateral, regional and international issues – including “co-operation regarding JCPOA and Venezuela”. The meeting is being held exactly one year since the Trump administration withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal.
The news came after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo travelled to Baghdad on an unannounced visit on Tuesday amid rising tensions with Iran.
Russia blames Washington
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he regretted Iran's decision to withdraw from parts of the deal, but argued it was provoked by US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the agreement last year.
Speaking in Moscow at a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart, Mr Lavrov said the situation around the nuclear deal is unacceptable. He said he would ask for an explanation from Mr Zarif for Iran's shifting position.
“As I understand, our main task here is to discuss the unacceptable situation, which has unfolded around the JCPOA as a result of irresponsible behaviour by the United States,” Mr Lavrov said, according to RT.
His Iranian counterpart said there is still a 60-day window to save the deal.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin said the world is seeing the consequences of the US decision to quit the JCPOA.
"President [Putin] has repeatedly spoken of the consequences of unthought-out steps regarding Iran and by that I mean the decision taken by Washington [to quit the deal]. Now we are seeing those consequences are starting to happen," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.
Asked if Russia might be ready to join other countries in imposing new sanctions against Iran over its partial roll back on the deal, Mr Peskov said, "for now, we need to soberly analyse the situation and exchange views on this. The situation is serious."
China also said it wanted the Iran deal to be upheld.
France condemns move
France's Defence Minister Florence Parly, meanwhile, said the European signatories were doing all they can to keep the accord alive.
"Today nothing would be worse than Iran, itself, leaving this agreement," Ms Parly told BFM TV.
Also, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weaponry.
"We will not allow Iran to achieve nuclear weaponry," he said in a speech marking Israel's Memorial Day. "We will continue to fight those who would kill us," he added.
Hassan Rouhani: JCPOA signatories have 60 days to return to the table
“The [nuclear] deal needs surgery; the promises are not being fulfilled. The surgery on the deal with better reflect the realities,” Mr Rouhani said during a televised speech on Wednesday.
He said that Iran is ready to negotiate, “but there needs to be better execution on the deal, and all deal signatories must uphold their ends of the agreement”.
The Iranian president said that the collapse of the nuclear deal is not only dangerous for Iran, but for the region and the world.
“To my peers, you know full well the role Iran plays in the region, but the cost of security is too high. If the deal is for the security of the region, Iran is paying it. But if you want to ensure the safety of this region, the safety of your youth, to shield them from drugs and danger, then you must also pay,” he said.
Mr Rouhani said that Iran will stop exporting heavy water, which is a component of making nuclear weapons and nuclear energy. Iran will also stop exporting enriched uranium within the 60 days.
He said that Iran will withdraw further from the deal after two months if its signatories fail to deliver their end of the agreement and Washington continues to derail it.
Letters sent to ambassadors
Iranian state television reported that letters outlining Tehran's partial withdrawal from the nuclear deal were being delivered to ambassadors, but did not elaborate on what steps Iran planned to take, according to the Associated Press.
The letters were to be sent to the leaders of Britain, China, the European Union, France and Germany. All were signatories to the 2015 deal, which led Iran to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. A letter was also to go to Russia.
The move came after Iranian officials gave a warning that Iran might increase its uranium enrichment, potentially pulling away from a deal it has sought to salvage for months.
Oil prices rising
Oil prices rose early on Wednesday, even before the latest news on Iran, as US sanctions against Tehran and fellow crude exporter Venezuela left markets relatively tight.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $61.90 per barrel at 4.51am GMT on Wednesday, 80 cents, or 0.8 percent, above their last settlement, Reuters reported.
Brent crude oil futures were at $70.29 per barrel, 41 cents, or 0.6 percent, above their last close.
"The tight and price-supportive fundamental outlook has not gone away," said Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Denmark's Saxo Bank.
China's crude oil imports in April rose a record for the month of 10.64 million barrels per day (bpd), according to data from the Chinese General Administration of Customs released on Wednesday.
This is an 11 per cent rise from the same month last year. The country is the world's largest oil importer.
Iran said it will defy the sanctions and continue to export oil. Most analysts expect its crude exports to fall to little more than 500,000 bpd, down from around 1 million bpd in April, as governments largely bow to US pressure.
What is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)?
The JCPOA is an agreement between Iran, the UN Security Council P5+1 members (the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany) plus the European Union.
The deal limits Iran's nuclear stockpiling and production capabilities and subjects them to checks from the International Atomic Energy Agency in return for lifting sanctions on the country.
It was passed as a part of a Resolution 2231 in the UN Security Council, which also asked Iran "not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles". The resolution was passed unanimously by the Security Council.
On January 16, 2016, the IAEA confirmed the relevant concessions had been made and all nuclear-related sanctions were lifted on Iran.
The JCPOA articles Iran is citing for withdrawal
Iran is saying that it has the right to withdraw from the nuclear deal under articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA.
Article 26 states that "the US Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress, will refrain from re-introducing or re-imposing the sanctions specified in Annex II that it has ceased applying under this JCPOA".
It goes on to state that "Iran has stated that it will treat such a re-introduction or re-imposition of the sanctions ...as grounds to cease performing its commitments...in whole or in part".
Article 36 states that "if Iran believed that any or all of the E3/EU+3 were not meeting their commitments under this JCPOA, Iran could refer the issue to the Joint Commission for resolution; similarly, if any of the E3/EU+3 believed that Iran was not meeting its commitments under this JCPOA, any of the E3/EU+3 could do the same."
If this cannot be resolved under the conditions and mechanism stated in the article – including a complaint made to the Joint Commission – then it can be deemed "to constitute significant nonperformance" and the member of the agreement can tell the UN Security Council they believe it is grounds to cease its commitment to the deal.
In May last year, when Mr Trump withdrew from the deal and reimposed sanctions, Mr Zarif sent a letter to the UN. In that letter he said that he had already made 12 official notifications to the Joint Commission about Washington's failure to honour its commitments.
His letter to the UN included the line: "If, after the exhaustion of available remedies, our people’s rights and benefits are not fully compensated, it is Iran's unquestionable right ... to take appropriate action in response to persistent, numerous unlawful acts by the US; particularly its withdrawal and re-imposition of all sanctions".