By Michelle Nichols and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber
NEW YORK/MOSCOW, Aug 14 (Reuters) – The United States lost a bid on Friday to extend a U.N. arms embargo on Iran as Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed a summit of world leaders to avoid “confrontation” over a U.S. threat to trigger a return of all U.N. sanctions on Tehran.
In a U.N. Security Council vote, Russia and China opposed extending the weapons ban, which is due to expire in October under a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. Eleven members abstained, including France, Germany and Britain, while Washington and the Dominican Republic were the only yes votes.
“The Security Council’s failure to act decisively in defense of international peace and security is inexcusable,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun said in a statement after the vote that the result “once again shows that unilateralism receives no support and bullying will fail.”
The United States could now follow through on a threat to trigger a return of all U.N. sanctions on Iran using a provision in the nuclear deal, known as snapback, even though President Donald Trump abandoned the accord in 2018. Diplomats have said the United States could do this as early as next week, but would face a tough, messy battle.
“In the coming days, the United States will follow through on that promise to stop at nothing to extend the arms embargo,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft said in a statement.
Diplomats have said such a move would put the fragile nuclear deal further at risk because Iran would lose a major incentive for limiting its nuclear activities. Iran already has breached parts of the nuclear deal in response to the U.S. withdrawal from the pact and unilateral sanctions.
Iran‘s U.N. Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi warned the United States against trying to trigger a return of sanctions.
“Imposition of any sanctions or restrictions on Iran by the Security Council will be met severely by Iran and our options are not limited. And the United States and any entity which may assist it or acquiesce in its illegal behavior will bear the full responsibility,” he said in a statement.
‘THE ISSUE IS URGENT’
Putin on Friday proposed a video summit with the United States and the remaining parties to the nuclear deal – Britain, France, China, Germany and Iran – to try to avoid further “confrontation and escalation” at the United Nations over Iran.
“The issue is urgent,” Putin said in a statement, adding that the alternative was “only further escalation of tensions, increasing risk of conflict – such a scenario must be avoided.”
Asked if he would take part, Trump told reporters, “I hear there’s something, but I haven’t been told of it yet.” French President Emmanuel Macron is open to taking part in a video summit, the Elysee palace said.
The United States has argued that it can trigger a sanctions snapback because a U.N. Security Council resolution enshrining the nuclear deal named Washington as a participant. But the remaining parties to the deal are opposed to the move.
Putin said Russia, an ally of Iran in the Syrian civil war, remained fully committed to the nuclear deal and that the aim of a summit would be to outline steps aimed at avoiding “confrontation and escalation of the situation in the Security Council.”
Trump has said he wants to negotiate a new deal with Iran that would prevent it from developing nuclear weapons and also curb its activities in the region and elsewhere. Trump, who has walked away from a series of international agreements, has dubbed the 2015 nuclear deal – reached under his predecessor Barack Obama – “the worst deal ever.”
Diplomats have said several countries would argue that the United States legally could not activate a return of sanctions and therefore simply would not reimpose the measures on Iran themselves.
(Additional reporting by Alexandra Alper and Michel Rose; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Hugh Lawson, Alistair Bell and Will Dunham)