Iran announced a longstanding UN embargo on arms sales to and from the Islamic Republic expired Sunday in line with a multilateral nuclear deal.
"As of today, all restrictions on the transfer of arms, related activities and financial services to and from the Islamic Republic of Iran... are all automatically terminated," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The embargo on the sale of conventional arms to Iran started expiring progressively from Sunday, October 18, under the terms of the UN resolution that blessed the 2015 nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic and world powers, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
"As of today, the Islamic Republic may procure any necessary arms and equipment from any source without any legal restrictions, and solely based on its defensive needs," the ministry added in the statement.
It insisted that under the terms of the deal, struck with the United States, China, Britain, France, Germany and Russia, "the lifting of arms restrictions and the travel ban were designed to be automatic with no other action required."
Sunday also marked the end of UN travel bans on a number of Iranian military commanders.
Iran, which could now purchase weapons from Russia, China and elsewhere, has already hailed the development as a diplomatic victory over its arch enemy the United States, which had tried to maintain an indefinite freeze on arms sales.
US President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the JCPOA in 2018 and has unilaterally begun reimposing sanctions on Iran.
But Washington suffered a humiliating setback in August when it failed to win support from the United Nations Security Council to indefinitely extend the arms embargo.
It was "a momentous day for the international community," the Iranian ministry said on Sunday, adding the world had stood with Tehran "in defiance of the US regime's efforts".
But it stressed that "unconventional arms, weapons of mass destruction and a buying spree of conventional arms have no place in Iran's defense doctrine".
Despite pulling out of the nuclear deal, the Trump administration insists it is still a "participant" and can therefore go ahead with reimposing sanctions.
Washington has said it has decided to unilaterally reinstate virtually all of the UN sanctions on Iran lifted under the accord.
But the US legal argument has been rejected by almost the entire UN Security Council, with European allies of the United States saying the priority is to salvage a peaceful solution to Iran's nuclear program.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet that the international community had "protected" the nuclear deal.
“Today’s normalization of Iran’s defense cooperation with the world is a win for the cause of multilateralism and peace and security in our region,” Zarif said.
Iran urged the US to "abandon its destructive approach vis-a-vis Resolution 2231", adding that American attempts to "violate" the resolution had been "categorically rejected several times in the past three months by the Security Council".
The statement added that in the case of measures amounting to a "material breach of the resolution and the purposes" of the deal, Iran "reserves the right to take any necessary countermeasures to secure its national interests".
Iran’s permanent mission to the United Nations hailed the end of the “baseless, unjust, and unlawful” arms embargo.
“States are no longer required to seek in advance case-by-case approval by the Security Council to engage in the supply, sale or transfer of arms or related materials to and from Iran,” the mission said in a statement.
“It should be emphasized that the Islamic Republic of Iran has always maintained that all sanctions and restrictive measures introduced and applied against the people of Iran have been baseless, unjust, and unlawful,” the statement noted.
Iran’s mission reminded likewise how Washington’s drive had hit a dead end as the Security Council rejected its “illegal” move.
“As a responsible member of the international community, the Islamic Republic of Iran engages in legitimate trade – in accordance with international law and on the basis of its national interests – with other countries, including in the realm of arms trade,” it pointed out.
The United Nations banned Iran from buying major foreign weapon systems in 2010 amid tensions over its nuclear program. An earlier embargo targeted Iranian arms exports.
Moscow said in September that it was ready to boost its military cooperation with Tehran, while Beijing has also spoken of its willingness to sell arms to the Islamic Republic after October 18.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened Russia and China with sanctions if they sell weapons to Iran.
Iran’s Ambassador in Russia Kazem Jalali said the country will use “with prudence” the opportunity that will be provided by the expiration of the decade-old embargo.
“Iran will definitely cooperate with interested countries in the technical-military field and in the procurement of equipment it needs,” Jalali told Interfax on Saturday.
“There will be no limitation for us and we will use this issue with prudence,” he added.
Iran has developed a large domestic arms industry in the face of international sanctions and embargoes that have barred it from importing many weapons.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh tweeted on Saturday that Iran meets 90 percent of its defense needs, and does not need to be dependent on other countries when it comes to arms supplies.
Iran’s ambassador to international organizations in Vienna, Kazem Gharibabadi, said governments can no more cite sanctions as a pretext to prevent Iran’s arms trade.
“From now on, governments cannot refer to the existence of sanctions or internationally binding restrictions when it comes to arms deals and even in case of weapons of Iranian origin in various countries,” Gharibabadi said.
AFP, AP, Reuters and Press TV contributed to this story.