Following the failure of Tehran-Washington proximity talks in Qatar last week, the US State Department says there is no plan for another round of talks for now.
Answering a question by Iran International’s correspondent Samira Gharaei and another reporter at the Tuesday briefing about when the US would conclude that there is no hope for success in the nuclear negotiations, State Department spokesman Ned Price said, "The reason it's impossible to put a timeframe is it isn't based on a political decision, but on a technical assessment of Iran's nuclear program versus non-proliferation benefits of the JCPOA."
US officials have said Iran already has accumulated enough enriched uranium to produce a bomb and critics wonder when the current situation would reach a point for the United States and its allies to walk away for the talks and adopt a different approach. The administration in January had said that the last chance for Iran was sometime at the end of February, and then negotiations broke down in March.
About US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley’s remarks earlier in the day on US waiting for an answer from Tehran, he said, “The answer that not only the US is waiting for, but also that our European allies are waiting for is a decision on the part of the Iranian government to fully return to compliance with the JCPOA.”
“It is not clear to us, based on what we have heard from the Iranians indirectly; from our European allies; that they have made that political commitment. There has been a deal on the table that is more or less finalized for several months now,” he added.
Price said, “In recent weeks and recent months, rather than make that political commitment to return to compliance with the JCPOA, Iran has consistently introduced extraneous demands that go beyond the four walls of the JCPOA.” “To introduce anything that goes beyond the narrow confines of the JCPOA suggests a lack of seriousness, a lack of commitment.”
EU representative Enrique Mora holding a meeting with Iran's nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri-Kani in Qatar on June 28, 2022
He highlighted, “We are at a point where a lack of forward momentum, a lack of progress is tantamount to backtracking,” adding that "Current assessment of experts and intelligence community is that the Iran agreement on the table right now is far preferable to where we are now.”
The US has said that that the West made an offer to Iran in December after nine months of talks in Vienna and the ball is in Tehran’s court.
Malley told National Public Radio Tuesday that last week’s Qatar talks between Tehran and Washington had been a waste of time.
Malley said the European Union – whose leading official Enrique Mora acted as a go-between in Qatar – had “put on the table very detailed outlines of what they think a fair outcome would be, and we’ve said we’re prepared to take that deal; the party that has not said yes is Iran.”
Iran’s Hostage Taking Policy
In response to a question about Belgium's controversial treaty on the exchange of convicts with Iran and whether the US is pursuing a different path to handle the Islamic Republic’s hostage policy, Price said the US has a near term goal when it comes to its citizens detained in Iran as well as a long-term goal.
“Our near-term goal is to see to it that those who are at the present moment held unjustly and wrongfully... are released.” The longer-term goal, he said, “is to create and reinforce a norm against this horrific practice; to see to it that the international community speaks with one voice and acts together.” He added that the US is working with allies to lay the ground to achieve this.
Price went on to say the US is monitoring several “egregious cases of Europeans and dual citizens” held in Iran such as Swedish-Iranian academic Ahmadreza Djalali, adding that “we echo concerns from UN experts that the situation... is truly horrific.”
Numerous people and groups from around the world have warned about the prisoner exchange treaty between Belgium and Iran, warning Belgian politicians against “giving the green light to state terrorism," and demanding that the bill be abandoned.
The treaty by the Belgian government that parliament is debating for approval could lead to the release of Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat serving a 20-year prison sentence in Belgium for “attempted murder and involvement in terrorism” for his role plotting to bomb a gathering of the exiled opposition group Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK) near Paris in 2018.
The committee was due to vote on the bill on Tuesday but adjourned the session until Wednesday after nearly four hours of debate. It is likely to be put before the full 150-member chamber on Thursday.