Iran’s deputy foreign minister said the Islamic Republic is “not interested” in direct contacts with the new US administration “at the moment”.
“We are not interested in any direct contact [with the US], we think that the JCPOA is the right format [for talks],” Seyyed Abbas Araqchi told Italian newspaper La Repubblica in an exclusive interview, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which is the official name of the 2015 nuclear agreement reached with world powers – the US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.
Former US president Donald Trump pulled out of the JCPOA in May 2018, reinstated and reinforced sanctions under a “maximum pressure” campaign. The sanctions targeted Iran’s vital oil sales and international banking ties.
His successor Joseph Biden has promised to rejoin the landmark accord and seek diplomacy with Iran.
Araqchi said Iran’s demand concerning the US possible return to the nuclear pact is “realistic” and “simple”.
“What Iran is asking for is something realistic: Simply to reenter the agreement they abandoned under Trump. I don’t see other alternatives,” he said.
The senior diplomat noted that the US was the party that walked out of the agreement and that the Biden administration needs “to correct the mistakes of its predecessors” if it want to rejoin the deal.
“It is up to them to decide what to do; to reenter the agreement they must remove all the sanctions they have imposed on Iran,” Araqchi pointed out.
In 2019, Iran began to drop its nuclear commitments under the JCPOA in retaliation for the US withdrawal and other parties’ failure to ensure benefits envisaged for the Islamic Republic within the deal.
Iranian officials have repeatedly asserted that Tehran will resume full implementation of the JCPOA once other members keep their side of the bargain.
“I confirm it today: We are ready to respect all the commitments of the JCPOA if the Americans return to respect them and lift the sanctions,” Araqchi said, adding, “We are only waiting to see how the new president intends to rectify the previous wrong positions of Donald Trump.”
He said Iran hopes the new US administration makes “right decisions”.
Araqchi further rejected a demand by France and Germany for a fresh deal that would include other issues like Iran’s missile program.
“There will be no ‘JCPOA plus’, there won’t be another agreement, there won’t be new negotiations on the JCPOA,” he said, adding that Iran’s missiles are “the only reliable defense tool” for the country and therefore not up for discussion.
‘Window of opportunity’
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Friday called on Biden to “unconditionally” lift sanctions to salvage the nuclear deal, warning that “the window of opportunity” for the new US administration will not be open forever.
Two days after Biden took office, Zarif published an op-ed in the US foreign policy magazine Foreign Affairs on Tehran’s view toward saving the deal, AFP wrote.
“The new administration in Washington has a fundamental choice to make,” Zarif wrote.
“It can embrace the failed policies of the Trump administration,” or Biden “can choose a better path by ending Trump’s failed policy of ‘maximum pressure’ and returning to the deal his predecessor abandoned,” he added.
“But if Washington instead insists on extracting concessions, then this opportunity will be lost.”
“The window of opportunity for the new US administration will not be open forever. The initiative squarely rests with Washington. The Biden administration’s first step ought to be to seek to redress — rather than attempt to exploit—Trump’s dangerous legacy of maximum failure. It can begin by removing all sanctions imposed since Trump assumed office and seek to reenter and abide by the 2015 nuclear deal without altering its painstakingly negotiated terms.”
Biden’s pick for secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, at a Senate hearing Tuesday confirmed the new US president’s desire for Washington to return to the nuclear agreement, but said that was conditional on Tehran’s return to strict compliance with its commitments.
But Tehran has insisted that Washington must first lift all sanctions and return to its own JCPOA obligations.
“The incoming Biden administration can still salvage the nuclear agreement, but only if it can muster the genuine political will in Washington to demonstrate that the United States is ready to be a real partner in collective efforts,” Zarif wrote.
“The administration should begin by unconditionally removing, with full effect, all sanctions imposed, reimposed, or relabeled since Trump took office,” he added.
“In turn, Iran would reverse all the remedial measures it has taken in the wake of Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal.”
In his op-ed, Zarif indicated Iran was not open to further negotiations, made clear in the title of the op-ed: “Iran wants the nuclear deal it made. Don’t ask Tehran to meet new demands.”
“Iranians are running out of patience,” Zarif wrote, as evidenced by legislation the country’s Parliament passed in December requiring Tehran “to boost uranium enrichment and limit UN [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspections if sanctions are not removed by February”.