[The Minister for the Middle East and North Africa(James Cleverly)]
It is a pleasure to serve with you in the Chair, Ms Nokes. I am grateful to my right
hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb) for securing this incredibly
important and timely debate. I am also grateful for his recognition, and that of a number
of hon. and right hon. Members, that I am in many ways constrained in terms of how much
detail I can go into in this important and sensitive debate. I thank hon. Members for
We have heard thoughtful, balanced and significant contributions by a number of hon. and right
hon. Members this afternoon. Irans nuclear programme is, sadly, more advanced and worrying
than it has perhaps ever been. That is why we are so focused on negotiating a deal that
returns Iran to full compliance with the JCPOA commitments and doing so as soon as possible.
Between 2015 and 2019, the joint comprehensive plan of action demonstrated that it could
deliver results. For the UK and the international community, it restricted Irans nuclear
programme to civilian use and supported the global non-proliferation system. For Iran,
phased sanctions relief offered a more prosperous future for its people.
However, Iran has failed to comply with its JCPOA commitments for more than two years
now. It continues to upgrade its nuclear capability, permanently and irreversibly. There is no
doubt about this. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UNs nuclear watchdog,
has verified Irans actions. Today, Irans nuclear programme is more advanced and worrying
than ever before. The IAEA confirmed in August that Iran has produced uranium metal enriched
up to 20% for the first time, and Iran has significantly increased its capability to
produce uranium enriched up to 60%, as a number of hon. Members have mentioned in the debate.
It is impossible to overstate the severity of Irans actions. It has no credible civilian
need to take such steps. It is unprecedented for a state without nuclear weapons to enrich
uranium to 60%. Meanwhile, Iran has withdrawn from the JCPOA-agreed monitoring arrangement.
That means that the IAEA has lost crucial insight into the status of Irans nuclear
programme, precisely at the time that Iran is escalating its activities. There is no
credible reason why the IAEAs accessshould be restricted. There has never been a clearer
imperative to halt the nuclear escalation and for Iran to return to the JCPOA commitments.
The diplomatic door remainscurrentlyopen, but Iran must urgently return to talks in
Vienna and engage in good faith. We remain committed to delivering a successful deal.
A restored deal could also pave the way for further discussions on regional and security
concerns, including in support of the non-proliferation regime.
While the JCPOA is not perfect, it is currently the only framework for monitoring and constraining
Irans nuclear programme. We have fully upheld the JCPOA commitments from our side,
including the lifting of sanctions. From April this year, we engaged in negotiations in Vienna,
in good faith, alongside the US and other partners. Iran stepped away from those negotiations
in June, after 10 weeks and six rounds of talks.
The UK, France, Germany, the US, Russia and China all stand ready to resume negotiations
with Iran. We want to conclude the deal that is on the table. There is a substantial offer
from the US on the tableto lift sanctions inconsistent with the JCPOA in exchange for
Irans return to full compliance with its nuclear commitments. That is a both fair and
comprehensive offer, but Iran has, thus far, failed to seize this opportunity.
We should be clear on thistime is running out to conclude a deal, and we may soon have
to reconsider our approach. Every day that Iran delays talks and escalates its nuclear
programme, it hurts its own economy and its own people the most. Irans current action
is not in Irans best interests. With the diplomatic door still open to restore the
JCPOA and lift sanctions, Iran must come back to the negotiating table, as a matter of urgency,
to pick up where we left off. In the meantime, we will continue holding it to account for
its nuclear escalation and wider destabilising behaviour.
A number of Members have spoken about British dual nationals in arbitrary detention in Tehran.
The UK Government remain absolutely committed to securing their full release and returning
them to their families and their loved ones. We will not rest until that is done. All Members
should recognise that that incarceration is the fault and responsibility of the Iranian
regimeno one else, nowhere else.
A number of right hon. and hon. Members mentioned the sanctions regime. We currently have more
than 200 UK sanctions designations in place against Iran, including those related to human
rights abuses and against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in its entirety. Right hon. and
hon. Members will understand that it is not useful to discuss or speculate on future sanctions
regimes, as that might undermine their authority. We will continue our approach based on a combination
of engagement, pressure and incentives.
As the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Wayne David) said, we want to see a prosperous and peaceful
Iran that feels secure within its own borders, and does not pose a threat to this country,
our interests, or our allies. We are ready, willing and able to reach a negotiated settlement
to that effect. It is now up to Tehran to engage seriously in that process.