Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Sunday night Iran is the only party to the 2015 nuclear deal that can set conditions about the landmark accord.
“As the Leader has said the one who is the creditor and can set conditions is Iran and they are the debtors,” Zarif said in a televised interview, referring to remarks by Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei who said earlier in the day that the United States must "completely lift" sanctions first, followed by Iran’s verification, before the Islamic Republic returns to full compliance of its nuclear deal commitments.
"Iran has fulfilled all its obligations under the deal, not the United States and the three European countries… If they want Iran to return to its commitments... America must completely lift sanctions, and not just in words or on paper," said Ayatollah Khamenei.
"They must be lifted in action, and then we will verify and see if they have been properly lifted, and then return," he added.
Former US president Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers – the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – in 2018 and reimpose sanctions on Tehran. In response to Trump's so-called “maximum pressure” campaign, Iran began to gradually suspend its compliance with most key nuclear commitments to the deal a year later.
In his interview, Zarif said new US President Joe Biden has to make a decision about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and that his administration needs to stop making “meaningless and ambiguous” remarks.
“Biden has yet to make up his mind about what he wants to do. They ought to make a decision whether they are going to continue Trump’s policy or adopt a new one,” Zarif said, according to Press TV.
“Their words are ambiguous and meaningless. They still have time to correct their remarks,” he added.
Biden said in a Friday interview with CBS, which was aired on Sunday, that he would not lift sanctions in order to push Iran to start new talks with the United States.
Asked whether he would halt sanctions to convince Iran to return to the negotiating table, Biden simply said "no".
The journalist then asked if the Iranians would first have to stop enriching uranium, which drew an affirmative nod from Biden.
However, after hours of debate and controversy over the issue among international experts and journalists, a senior US official later made it clear to Reuters that Biden meant Iran must stop enriching uranium beyond the limits under the JCPOA.
Iran wants guarantee
In his Sunday interview, Zarif said before returning to the JCPOA, the US needs to prove a withdrawal would not happen again.
How should Iran make sure “someone like Trump will not take office and tear apart the deal again?” he asked.
“The Americans must prove the Trump experience will not be repeated. This is not a precondition, this is a subject of talks,” the Iranian foreign minister added.
Zarif stressed that the US must guarantee it will not repeat its previous moves, and also deal with the damages it caused on the Iranian nation by leaving the deal and reimposing its sanctions.
“However, the first step is the implementation of commitments,” Zarif said, making it clear that Iran’s return to compliance with the deal is merely dependent on the US return.
No new talks
In an interview with CNN's Farid Zakaria on Sunday, Zarif stressed that Biden must return to the same nuclear deal that the Islamic Republic clinched with world powers in 2015 and there will be no new talks on the accord.
He noted that Iran has never withdrawn from the JCPOA, but just scaled down its commitments after Trump pulled Washington out of the deal.
It was Trump that withdrew from the nuclear deal and Biden must return to the same agreement, which has been previously negotiated, Iran's top diplomat added.
Iran's defense capabilities
Zarif pointed to the American officials’ remarks about the necessity of including ballistic missiles in any talks with Iran over a new nuclear deal, emphasizing that the JCPOA cannot be renegotiated.
If you seek to hold talks about weapons, you have to take all aspects of this issue into consideration, he added.
Iran’s foreign minister said the United States should not talk about Iran’s defense capabilities, but rather it should address the whole issue of weapons in the West Asia region, especially those, which are being used against women and children in Yemen.
While Saudi Arabia spent more than 70 billion dollars to buy military hardware last year, the United Arab Emirates, with a population of about 1.5 million, spent about 22 billion dollars on purchasing arms, Zarif noted quoting figures from the Sweden-based Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
He added that despite having more than one million official military personnel, Iran’s military expenditure does not exceed 10-11 billion dollars.
Zarif also called on the US to show some “tough love” to its allies and tell them to stop war in Yemen.