The United States remains committed to ensuring that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon and is prepared to engage in diplomacy with Tehran, the US secretary of state said Monday.
"Diplomacy is the best path to achieve that goal. President [Joe] Biden has said: if Iran comes back into strict compliance with the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), the United States is prepared to do the same," said Anthony Blinken.
Blinken addressed the High-Level Segment of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, saying virtually the body has a responsibility to create new tools to manage 21st-century threats and protect what the world has built.
"Working with allies and partners, we will also seek to lengthen and strengthen the JCPOA and address other areas of concern, including Iran's destabilizing regional behavior and ballistic missile development and proliferation," he said.
Turkey condoles death of Italian diplomat in attack
The Turkish foreign minister on Monday offered his condolences on the death of an Italian diplomat in an attack on a UN convoy in the Democratic Republic of Congo.In a tweet, Mevlut Cavusoglu tagged his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio and wrote: “Deeply shocked and saddened by the demise of Ambassador Luca Attanasio of #Italy and a Carabinieri officer in a horrific attack in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Heartfelt condolences to friendly Italy, bereaved families and the Italian nation."Attanasio, 43, was among three people killed in the attack on a UN convoy in the Democratic Republic of Congo.Italian police officer Vittorio Iacovacci, 30, and their Congolese World Food Program driver – whose name has not been released – also died.According to local sources, the convoy was attacked in an attempted kidnapping near Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.
'Turkey continues to increase its presence in Africa'
Given the rise in the number of Ankara's diplomatic missions across Africa, Turkey's foreign minister said on Monday his country's presence in the continent continues to increase."The African continent with its 33 Least Developed Countries [LDCs] is in need of solid leadership and support from its developed partners for economic growth, social progress, woman and youth empowerment," said Mevlut Cavusoglu.Speaking at the Africa Regional Review Meeting for the 5th UN Conference of the Least Developed Countries (LDC5), the Turkish foreign minister said there is still much to be done for helping the least developed countries especially at a time when the world is facing additional challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic."A decade ago with the Istanbul Programme of Action, we put forward an ambitious vision for LDCs. Since then, the LDCs have achieved progress in bringing the people out of poverty. However, only three countries have graduated from the LDCs category in the last decade," he said.The foreign minister added that Turkey, as the co-chair of the Group of Friends of the LDCs, will continue to do its best to help them reach their objectives on economic growth, social progress, woman and youth empowerment.- Turkey to open embassies in Togo, Guinea-Bissau"The number of our diplomatic representations rose from 12 in 2002 to 42 today, and we will soon open embassies in Togo and Guinea-Bissau," Cavasoglu said.He mentioned the works of the Turkish Maarif Foundation and the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) in the continent, adding that Turkey is also expanding its official development assistance under the Addis Ababa Action Agenda commitments."Between 2009 and 2019, we provided $2.5 billion of such assistance to LDCs and this amounts to 1.15% of our GNI [Gross National Income]... We continue our support to the UN Technology Bank for LDCs, which we host in Gebze [district of northwestern Kocaeli province] near Istanbul to help its efforts in bridging the digital divide," Cavusoglu said.Turkey, he said, responded to medical equipment requests of 157 countries to fight COVID-19, many of which were LDCs.'Investment to bolster LDCs is critical'"Investment to bolster LDCs against economic and climate shocks, which derail or stifle sustainable development prospects is critical," UN General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir said in his video message sent to the meeting.Arguing that although all member states have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, he said that the most vulnerable face the greatest risk of losing a generation of hard-won development gains. "We cannot let that happen. This is where the 2020 promise of leaving no one behind will be won or lost.""We must ensure our efforts also benefit from the demographic dividend of large youth populations. Opportunities must be created so that the young can pursue their ambitions and contribute to better conditions on our planet."Touching on the key roles of technology in society, he said internet access is fundamental to all forms of social and economic interaction."Access to the internet has more than tripled for African LDCs over the past decade. However, around four out of five people in African LDCs still have no access to the internet," he shared.He called for mobilizing the international community to respond to the increasing digital divide, which has deepened as a result of the pandemic."International support for the Technology Bank for LDCs and the Least Developed Countries Fund should be increased such that the LDCs can achieve the 2030 Agenda," Bozkir added.
Also, Iran must comply with its safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its international obligations.
Blinken said Washington is ready to engage Russia in stability discussions on arms control and emerging security issues.
The top diplomat noted that two weeks after Biden took office as president on Jan. 6, the US and the Russian Federation extended the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) for five years.
"That decision made our countries and the world safer, and it was only the beginning of our efforts to address nuclear threats," said Blinken.
"We will be clear-eyed about the broader challenges posed by Russia and how our respective nuclear arsenals represent existential threats to each other," said the secretary of state.
At the same time, the US wishes to demand greater transparency regarding China's "provocative and dangerous weapons."
"Working with our allies and partners, the United States will also demand greater transparency regarding China's provocative and dangerous weapons development programs and continue efforts aimed at reducing the dangers posed by their nuclear arsenal," he said.
Further said Blinken, the US wants to engage all countries, including Russia and China, on "developing standards and norms of responsible behavior in outer space."
US pushes two-state solution in call with Israeli FM
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed the importance of a two-state solution for Israeli-Palestinian peace during a phone call Monday with his Israeli counterpart.During his call with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, Blinken "addressed the US approach towards a more peaceful, secure, and prosperous future for Israelis, Palestinians, and the greater Middle East," the State Department said."The Secretary also emphasized the Biden Administration's belief that the two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace alongside a viable and democratic Palestinian state," spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.The call is the second between the top diplomats since Blinken assumed office last month early on in the Biden administration.During former US President Donald Trump's four-year term, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu worked at upending long-held pillars of the two-state solution to achieve peace with the Palestinians in tandem with Trump, who moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and declared the disputed city Israel's capital.Trump also issued an Israel-Palestinian peace plan that heavily favored Israel's demands, carved up much of the West Bank, and left little territory for a future Palestinian state while maintaining all of Israel's settlements, which are illegal under international law.
Iran may enrich uranium up to 60%: Supreme leader
Iran's Supreme Leader said Monday his country "will not back down" on its right to pursue its nuclear program and could enrich uranium up to 60% purity for civilian use.Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was addressing a meeting of the Assembly of Experts, a powerful 88-member clerical body, in the Iranian capital Tehran.“Like other issues, the Islamic Republic will not back down on the nuclear issue and will continue to move forward on the basis of the country’s present and future needs," he noted.He said Iran "does not seek nuclear weapons," adding even if the Islamic Republic decided to produce them, no one could prevent it from doing so."That international Zionist clown has said they won't allow Iran to produce nuclear weapons," he remarked, obliquely referring to Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu. "First of all, if we had any such intention, even those more powerful than him would not be able to stop us."Turkey rescues 98 irregular migrants in Aegean SeaIsrael, Egypt discuss situation in GazaOn Iran's scaling back of commitments under the 2015 nuclear accord, Khamenei said Tehran will return to full compliance when other signatories fulfill their obligations.He also called on the Hassan Rouhani-led government and parliament to "resolve their differences" on implementing the recently passed law aimed at countering US sanctions.As part of the law, Iran is slated to stop the implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) on Feb. 23, limiting the access of inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to Iranian nuclear sites.Iran's leader termed it a "good law" and said it should be "executed precisely."-'Bad deal'Pertinently, Iran's conservative-dominated parliament has taken umbrage to the deal reached between Iran's nuclear agency and the IAEA during IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi's visit to Tehran on Sunday.UN envoy for Libya calls for compliance with cease-fireAnnual NATO drill gets underway in ItalyIranian lawmakers on Monday criticized Tehran's decision to allow “necessary” monitoring by the UN nuclear watchdog for up to three months, saying it goes against the spirit of the law, which calls for ending all snap inspections beyond the NPT safeguards agreement."The government has no right to decide and act arbitrarily," the head of parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, Mojtaba Zolnour, was quoted as saying by local media.Under the agreement reached between Iran and the IAEA on Sunday, Iran will hold back camera footage at its nuclear facilities for three months.If sanctions are lifted in that period, the data will be shared with the agency. Otherwise, it will be destroyed, according to Iran's permanent envoy to Vienna-based international organizations Kazem Gharibabadi.This, however, has not gone down well with lawmakers. Iran's parliament speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf said Monday that Iran is "determined to stop" implementation of the Additional Protocol and limit the access of the IAEA inspectors beyond the safeguards agreement.He asked parliament's national security and foreign policy commission and energy commission to conduct field inspections and submit a report, adding "any violation of the law" will be dealt with according to the law.In a joint statement Sunday, Iranian lawmakers stressed the need for the government to stop voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol."The practical and complete revocation of banking and oil sanctions are among the fundamental conditions for the US to return to the nuclear deal, and without lifting the cruel sanctions that can be verified by the Iranian nation, Iran will not stop its proud and strong steps of industrial and nuclear progress,” the statement noted.-"Wise move"In response, the government issued a lengthy statement late Monday expressing "deep regret" over the remarks of some lawmakers, terming the criticism "irrational."The statement said the government is obliged to implement the laws passed by parliament and the action in accordance with the recent law will be taken on Feb. 23.The negotiations and agreement between the Iranian government and UN nuclear watchdog, it noted, have been "in accordance with the Constitution and laws of the country.""In line with parliament's law, no extra-judicial access will be granted to the [UN] agency and no extra-supervisory inspections will be conducted,” the statement said, noting that the purpose of "continuing the necessary verification and monitoring" is for Iran to "retain the information of certain monitoring activities and equipment specified in the annex."It termed the move "wise" and aimed at "implementing both the law of parliament and reducing the costs of implementing the law."
The Conference on Disarmament had already held discussions on space security, and he said it is "uniquely positioned" to help lead.
Blinked urged states developing anti-satellite weapons to refrain from dangerous testing of them.
"For example, contrary to Russia's diplomatic and public stance against the weaponization of space, Russia conducted a ground-based anti-satellite test in December 2020.
"We should be reducing tensions in outer space, not making them worse," he added.