A conservative Iranian lawmaker has confirmed recent reports that Washington held direct talks with Tehran, although he said there will be no deal in the near future.
“Despite some negotiations in New York, there is no impending agreement soon because of US obstructions,” Mojataba Tavangar tweeted on Saturday.
Tavangar is a ‘principlist’ Iranian politician, which means he can be considered a hardliner, although on some issues he has exhibited flexibility in the past. Unlike many other hardliners dominating the parliament, Tavangar is a more educated politician having spent years as a researcher.
“America is trying to get more concessions from Iran in nuclear matters, in exchange for releasing frozen funds, a policy violating the law and in contradiction to Iran’s interests,” Tavangar added.
Iran International reported in January that US special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley had held three meetings with Iran’s UN ambassador Saeed Iravani in New York in the closing weeks of 2022. The State Department never denied this report, and said Washington had many channels to relay messages to Tehran.
The reports of more meetings resurfaced in June, when the Financial Times and others reported that meetings have taken place in New York and perhaps in Oman, which has long acted as a mediator between Tehran and Washington.
The State Department did not directly deny the latest reports either. Asked about the media reports, deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said, “I don’t have anything to announce on this front.”
He added, “As you’ve heard me say previously, we have the means to communicate with Iran and deliver messages to them that are in America’s interest to do so. We’re not going to detail the contents of those messages or the means of those deliveries. I don’t have anything additional to add there.” He refused to comment further.
The Iranian lawmaker Tavangar in his tweet also claimed that the United States is pushing Iran toward direct talks, and even regarding American prisoners (hostages) in Iran is not negotiating seriously. He described media reports about secret talks and progress toward a deal as “media hype” saying that Washington’s goal is to highlight Iran’s economic problems and inflict “a shock” on the market.
Tavangar’s statements could well be an indirect message by the regime to its domestic audience, as the news about a possible deal has led to some premature hopes. The Iranian rial has risen against the US dollar in the past week, and any negative diplomatic news could push the battered currency toward a steep fall.
It is worth noting that many media outlets in Tehran, under tight government control, widely reported on Tavangar’s tweet.
Iran International also reported May 27, that talks on the release of Tehran’s frozen assets could result in a deal soon, based on a source with direct knowledge of the talks. Apparently, the talks were focused on funds held in Iraq and South Korea. The money in Iraqi banks could be as much as $10 billion or more by most recent estimates mentioned by Iranian officials. Iraq imports natural gas and electricity from Iran but is barred by US sanctions to make dollar transfers to Tehran.
The funds in South Korea could be exchanged for the release of three US dual nationals held hostage in Iran.
ILNA news website in Tehran reported Saturday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the issue of the funds blocked in Iraq with his Iraqi counterpart during his recent visit to Saudi Arabia. Apparently Baghdad is urging Washington to find a solution, the website said.