The spokesman of Iran’s foreign ministry has reiterated that all US ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions should be lifted at once and that Tehran would reject any interim arrangement.
Speaking to state television Thursday, Saeed Khatibzadeh was reacting to reports that US officials had discussed with Israel a possible step-by-step approach to reviving Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
“The position of the Islamic Republic has been clear for months and its new government without any hesitation has articulated its position,” Khatibzadeh said. “American sanctions should be lifted all at once, and their removal should be verifiable, together with objective guarantees.”
Recent reports in American media spoke of an interim agreement possibly suspending some sanctions, with waivers promising the US would not take action against third parties paying money owed to Iran, in return for some limitations on the Iranian nuclear program. There have also been reports that Israeli officials, who opposed the 2015 deal, dismissed the idea.
Focus on sanctions
Khatibzadeh resisted a question from state television framing the Vienna talks as between Iran and “the other party,” meaning the US. “We don’t have another party,” he said. “Iran is in negotiation with 4+1, and our focus is on ways to lift US sanctions.”
Saeed Khatibzadeh, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman.
The “4+1” refers to the remaining parties to the 2015 deal, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), who are formally involved in talks with Iran in Vienna that resume on November 29: China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom.
The JCPOA was in 2015 signed by Iran and the P5+1, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany, but the US, having voted for the JCPOA at the UNSC, then left the agreement in 2018 and imposed ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions.
In six rounds of talks in Vienna the US has taken part indirectly. Tehran has recently emphasized that Washington, which has been emphasizing its close consultation with Israel and the Gulf Arab states, is not formally in the diplomatic loop.
Mohammad Eslami, head of Iran's nuclear agency.
Mohammad Eslami, head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Thursday rejected US criticism that Iran did not fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The US representative at the IAEA Thursday told the agency’s board of governors that if Iran did not allow the IAEA to repair its monitoring cameras at a nuclear installation in Karaj, west of Tehran, Washington would push for an extraordinary IAEA meeting before the end of the year.
‘Time was short’
Eslami argued Karaj access, which Iran restricted after a drone attack in June, was related to the JCPOA and that as the US, having left the JCPOA, should not meddle. Iran in February restricted its cooperation with the agency to broadly that required under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty (NPT).
Although it has a temporary agreement in place allowing the IAEA to service monitoring equipment in nuclear sites, Karaj, which was attacked by a drone in June, is a manufacturing plant and therefore not covered under NPT safeguards.
Eslami repeated Khatibzadeh’s earlier remarks that the focus in Vienna talks should not be on nuclear issues but on ensuring the US lifted sanctions. He insisted the IAEA chief Rafael Mariano Grossi had this week confirmed that the agency had not found evidence of Iran breaking its commitments.
In his trip to Tehran Monday, Grossi had tried to reach agreement with Iran over servicing monitoring equipment in Karaj – which Iran allowed under the JCPOA– and to gain what the agency regards as satisfactory answers over unexplained uranium traces found in three sites where work was carried out before 2003.
Eslami repeated a new argument that Iranian officials returned to on Friday, that the talks with Grossi had been “inconclusive” because “time was short.”