Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Seyyed Abbas Araqchi censured America’s desire to maintain sanctions on the Islamic Republic, calling it the biggest obstacle to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA.
In an interview with Japan’s NHK broadcaster on the sidelines of the latest round of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Araqchi also said the United States must lift all sanctions imposed on Iran by former president Donald Trump.
“Our position is actually that if the US is interested to come back to the JCPOA, they should not only lift all JCPOA-related sanctions, but also all sanctions imposed or reimposed or relabeled during the Trump administration,” said the Iranian diplomat, who led Iran’s delegation to the Vienna talks.
Trump withdrew the US from the JCPOA in 2018 and reimposed tough sanctions on Iran. But US President Biden supports a return to the multilateral agreement under which Iran scaled back its nuclear work in return for promises of sanctions relief.
The remaining parties to the accord – Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – met again on Friday after talks formally began on Tuesday. Talks are set to resume Wednesday.
Iran refused to meet directly with US negotiator Robert Malley during the talks led by the European Union, whose envoys shuttled between the two sides in two hotels.
Iran has demanded that the United States first lift all sanctions, which includes a sweeping unilateral ban on its oil exports, before it rolls back moves out of nuclear compliance that it had taken in protest at the US withdrawal.
Araqchi told Iran’s national TV that there are more than 1,500 sanctions on Iran that must be removed at once and then verified by Iran.
“If the oil embargo is lifted, it does not mean an order on paper… Buyers of Iran’s crude must be able to purchase it without any problems. It must be confirmed to us that the sanctions have been lifted. When the verification is done, then we will fulfill our obligations,” he said.
Negotiators say their recent talks have progressed, with both Iran and the US describing them as “constructive”.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Saturday that “all sides have shown readiness to work toward… the full implementation of the nuclear agreement”.
“I am optimistic as a diplomat,” Araqchi said, even after the US predicted an “impasse” if Iran sticks to its demand that all sanctions since 2017 be removed.
Russia’s Permanent Representative to the International Organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov said the Biden Administration is not willing to remove Trump-era sanctions.
“What is clear is that the Iranian side wants the lifting of all sanctions at once, but the Americans are only ready to lift the sanctions related to the JCPOA,” he told the Russian radio of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting.
Asked whether the United States is prepared to terminate all its anti-Iran sanctions at once, the Russian envoy replied: “It is not clear at the moment and the near future will show if the Americans decide to lift the sanctions at once or step by step.”
Ulyanov said all the European parties want the revival of the JCPOA, while Iran wants the removal of all sanctions in order to gain economic benefits from the deal such as cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
“At this stage, the priority is to develop a roadmap to coordinate all the steps needed to revive the JCPOA, including the lifting of sanctions and Iran's return to compliance with the terms of the deal. It is not an easy task,” he said.
Three months needed
The Iranian Parliament’s Research Center said the verification of any US removal of sanctions would require at least three months, emphasizing that the process would not be possible within hours or days.
“It is obvious that the real test of sanctions removal and fulfillment of measurable indices put forward by Iran is not possible in a matter of few hours or days, and would take at least three to six months. It is also necessary to verify within specified intervals (for example, every six months) that the Iranian economy benefits from the removal of the sanctions,” the center said in a report published on Sunday.
The report said Article 6 of the Strategic Action Plan to Counter Sanctions, a law passed in December by Iranian legislators, stipulates several general criteria concerning the removal of the anti-Iran sanctions, Press TV wrote.
They include normalization of banking transactions, total removal of export barriers, unhindered sale of Iranian petroleum and oil derivatives, in addition to complete and rapid return of revenues from Iranian oil sales.
Last December, Iranian lawmakers overwhelmingly voted in favor of the action plan, which tasked the government with suspending extra commitments under the JCPOA if sanctions remain in place.
The United States, the report said, may prevent Iran from benefiting economically from the removal of the sanctions by trying to maintain the status quo, including limiting other countries’ cooperation with the Islamic Republic.