0232 GMT August 18, 2022
The outgoing Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman reiterated that Tehran will not hold any direct negotiations with the United States over the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal, saying that the indirect talks “would be facilitated by the European Union”.
Saeed Khatibzadeh made the remarks in an address to his last weekly press conference on Monday, noting that the negotiators will not discuss nuclear issues, but rather will focus on pending topics concerning the lifting of the sanctions imposed on Iran, Press TV reported.
“The ball is in Washington’s court. If they come up with an answer, an agreement would be reached,” he said.
He confirmed that the next round of the paused nuclear negotiations will be hosted by a Persian Gulf country, reacting to reports by Qatar’s Al Jazeera network and Iran’s Nour News that the remaining parties in the nuclear deal may head to Doha to continue the talks.
He added that the sides will decide on the next venue of the talks and the exact date within hours.
“God willing, one of the countries in the Persian Gulf will be the host, and the meeting will take place in the coming days of the current week,” Khatibzadeh told reporters.
The talks were initially launched last April but have already hit a two month-long pause. All previous rounds have been held in Austria’s capital, Vienna.
On the agenda is to restore to full force the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which the United States abandoned in 2018 and has tried to kill ever since.
In withdrawing from the JCPOA, former U.S. president Donald Trump introduced what he called the “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions to bring Iran to its knees. Tehran demands the removal of all those sanctions.
In the meantime, Mohammad Marandi, an adviser to the Iranian negotiating team, was quoted by Al-Araby al-Jadeed on Sunday as saying that Iran had selected Qatar as a “friendly country” to host the talks.
Khatibzadeh also quoted the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell as saying that the United States has pledged to abide by its obligations under the JCPOA and the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 and guarantee Iran’s economic interests within the framework of the deal.
The spokesman, however, stressed that “we have to wait and see” whether Washington would make good on its promises, given that it has once withdrawn from the deal.
Commenting on a recent visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to Tehran, Khatibzadeh praised Baghdad’s role in Iran-Saudi Arabia normalization talks.
He said the Iraqi premier told Tehran that Riyadh is ready to proceed with the talks in Baghdad at the diplomatic level.
Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran in January 2016 after Iranian protesters, enraged by the Saudi execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, stormed its embassy in Tehran.
The kingdom then pursued a confrontational foreign policy toward the Islamic Republic, especially during the Trump administration, with whom the Saudis had close ties.
However, since last year, the kingdom appears to have changed tack, joining Iran in the Iraqi capital for negotiations to reestablish their diplomatic relations.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on Sunday told al-Kadhimi that Tehran backs initiatives aimed at reopening the Iranian and Saudi embassies in the capitals of the two regional heavyweights.
Khatibzadeh, who was the Foreign Ministry spokesman since 2020, has been replaced by Nasser Kan’ani, who used to represent Iran’s interests in Cairo.
Khatibzadeh will serve as an adviser to the Iranian foreign minister.