Iran's Chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri-Kani. FILE PHOTO

Nuclear Talks Must Focus On Lifting Sanctions, Says Iranian Negotiator


With Iran’s nuclear issue “resolved by the 2015 agreement” only lifting US sanctions needs to be agreed when talks resume in Vienna, Iran’s top negotiator says.

“We do not have nuclear talks, because the nuclear issue was resolved in 2015 in the form of an agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1,” Ali Bagheri-Kani, negotiator and a deputy foreign minister, told Iranian state television in an interview from Paris.

The statement is another sign of Iran’s hardening posture. On Monday Iran’s foreign ministry insisted that the US must meet three conditions for the talks to proceed and success. Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters that the US should lift the sanctions “at once”, admit culpability and provide guarantees that it will not withdraw from the agreement again. If these are real negotiating demands and not public posturing, the future of the talk look bleak, commentators in Iranand abroad said.

The Vienna talks aim at reviving the 2015 JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), which limited the Iranian nuclear program and was signed by Iran with the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States).

The Iranian lead negotiator's reaction was made one day after French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the talks with Iran must resume where they left off on 20 June by Iran after six rounds of talks with the administration of former President Hassan Rouhani.

Problems had risen, Bagheri-Kani explained, when the US left the JCPOA in 2018 and imposed ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions, which sent the Iranian economy into recession.

"The main issue we are facing now is the consequences of the US withdrawal from the JCPOA, which are limited to the illegal sanctions imposed against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Bagheri-Kani said.

Bagheri-Kani spoke Tuesday evening after a meeting with Philippe Errera, the French foreign ministry political director and lead negotiator. Bagheri-Kani is on a tour of European capitals, which began in Moscow. His remarks came a day after French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the Vienna talks, in which Washington participates indirectly, should resume where they left off on June 20.

Bagheri-Kani described his talk with Errera as “detailed, frank, serious, constructive and forward-looking,” and noted there was a "very good opportunity” to improve relations with France as it prepares for a six-month stint as president of the European Union's Council beginning in January.

In a tweet Tuesday, Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the upcoming Vienna talks would be "a remarkable event after a long (almost 5,5 months) break." Ulyanov said the talks "must be a successful exercise” as there was “no acceptable alternative” to the JCPOA.

China said Monday that the US should rectify its actions in unliterally leaving the JCPOA and so lay the basis for Iran to again accept the JCPOA limits in its nuclear program, which it began exceeding in 2019 in response to US sanction. The official Xinhua news agency cited a Saturday phone call between Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

In Iran, officials have been playing down the importance of restoring the JCPOA. "The JCPOA isn't a priority for our country, and we will not waste all our capacities waiting for the outcome of the [Vienna] talks," said Fada-Hossein Maleki, a member of the parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Wednesday.

Maleki said that Iran needed guarantees that all parties would abide by the agreement in future: "The talks must bear practical and tangible results for us. The Islamic Republic will no longer put all its eggs in the JCPOA basket as it was done during the Rouhani administration [which left office in August]…We will not allow the talks to become attritional.”

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