Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman said Monday that Tehran and the European Union had agreed that stalled nuclear talks should resume "as soon as possible.”
"So far no decision has been made as to where and what level the meeting should be held but it's on agenda," Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters at his weekly press briefing.
Referring to Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian's Friday phone talk with EU foreign policy Chief, Josep Borrell, Khatibzadeh said the two sides had agreed that a pause since mid-March in Vienna talks to restore Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers was not “helpful.”
"We would have been in Vienna, obviously, if the US had made a clear response,” Khatibzadeh said, reiterating Iran’s view that Washington was blocking agreement in the talks, that have struggled to agree which US sanctions violate the 2015 agreement, and exactly how the Iranian nuclear program should be returned to the limits of the agreement, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).
Borrell had expressed frustration over the pause in the talks and called for fresh contacts between Enrique Mora, the senior EU official chairing the Vienna process, and Iran’s lead negotiator Ali Bagheri-Kani.
Khatibzadeh said that Bagheri-Kani and Mora were regularly in touch, and that Iran had agreed most issues with other parties to the JCPOA – China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom. Mora, he said, was left with issues outstanding between Tehran and Washington. Having left the JCPOA in 2018, the US takes part in the Vienna process indirectly.
The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said the US and Israel had in public reduced these outstanding matters to disagreement as to whether the US current listing of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a ‘foreign terrorist organization’ was compatible with the JCPOA. Former US president Donald Trump designated the Guards in 2019 after introducing ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions.
"Issues between us can neither be reduced [to the delisting] nor be simplified," Khatibzadeh said. He reiterated that all sanctions imposed by Trump needed to go for Iran to gain the economic benefits laid out in the JCPOA.
Prisoners, and elections
The spokesman also dealt with a potential prisoner swap with the US, responding to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's Saturday tweet aboutAmericans jailed in Iran that any exchange was an exclusively humanitarian matter. There has been repeated speculation in recent month and weeks over the release Iranian assets frozen abroad, some linking it to a prisoner release and some to the Vienna talks.
Referring to suggestions that President Joe Biden is delaying agreement on JCPOA restoration until after November’s US Congressional elections, Khatibzadeh said, US domestic politics should not determine the outcome of Vienna talks.
In response to a question over Iran's recent announcement of a new factory at Natanz to make nuclear parts, Khatibzadeh the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had full knowledge of the move, which resulted from sabotage at the Karaj site widely attributed to Israel.
" Iran is a member of the Non-Proliferation treaty (NPT),” he said. “We have followed NPT word by word. We transferred our centrifuges according to NPT…We are entitled under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to carry out any actions required to meet our needs.”