While the Iranian foreign minister has reiterated that his country will soon return to Vienna nuclear talks, it is not clear if Tehran has new preconditions.
Speaking during a visit to Syria, Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian reiterated that Iran would "soon" return to the nuclear talks with world powers, which include indirect negotiations with the United States. A main concern of Iran in any talks to rescue the 2015 nuclear deal would be around ways to verify the lifting of US sanctions, he said on Saturday.
Questions also linger if Iran is demanding unfreezing of some of its assets held in different counties. The foreign minister hinted last week that the US should release $10 billion to show goodwill.
In an interview with France 24 television cited by the official news agency IRNA Saturday, the foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh repeated earlier statements that the new administration of President Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi) has carried out dual reviews: one, now concluded, deciding to continue the talks, and a second reviewing details of talks to date.
According to IRNA, Khatibzadeh stressed that Iran would return to the talks more quickly than the three months it took the United States to open talks in April after President Joe Biden took office in January having pledged to return to the agreement, from which his predecessor Donald Trump withdrew in 2018. But it has been more than three months since the last round of talks in June.
The spokesman criticized the Biden administration for continuing Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions despite campaign promises. "The most important issue is lifting all sanctions imposed on Iran," Khatibzadeh said.
European signatories of the deal – the JCPOA, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – have expressed concern that Iran is in no hurry to resume talks as it is gaining useful experience in running a nuclear program that has expanded since 2019.
Some pundits in Iran also see no rush. "If Iran was delaying the return to the talks to carry out economic reforms that could lessen the impact of sanctions this would be justified," international affairs analyst Hasan Beheshtipour told the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) Friday.
But Beheshtipour also suggested that unravelling a complex network of sanctions needed negotiations with world powers, and that Iran should not expect all sanctions lifted overnight. Beheshtipour said that the cost of circumventing sanctions − adding $20 to the $5 production cost of each barrel of oil − justified a focus on oil and financial sanctions.
A conservative foreign policy expert, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh backed Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian's call for the US to ‘unfreeze’ $10 billion of Iran's money as a goodwill gesture.
Falahatpisheh, who headed the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee 2018-19, said that instead of the fruitless "negotiation for the sake of negotiation" under President Hassan Rouhani, Amir-Abdollahian had suggested "a positive step" towards reviving the JCPOA.
Khatibzadeh has denied that Iran has preconditions for resuming talks, although some pundits have interpreted Amir-Abdollahian's demand for unfreezing Iranian assets as a toughening of Tehran’s approach.