Talks Still Possible If US Changes Sanctions Policy
EghtesadOnline: Iran is still ready to engage in negotiations with the United States despite the recent escalation, if Washington changes its approach and lifts the sanctions, the Iranian top diplomat said.
In an interview with German weekly Spiegel, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran is not concerned about who is in charge of the US administration, but rather how they behave.
"The [US President Donald] Trump administration can correct its past, lift the sanctions and come back to the negotiating table. We're still at the negotiating table. They're the ones who left," Financial Tribune quoted him as saying.
Tensions rose between Tehran and Washington after the US quit the 2015 nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed sweeping sanctions on Iran.
The US called for new negotiations over more areas of Iranian activity while Tehran maintained that any talks could only take place within the framework of the previous deal's Joint Commission and once the sanctions are fully removed.
The situation gradually escalated until the two countries entered a phase of military action against each other.
In early January, the US assassinated the Iranian top commander, Major General Qasem Soleimani, in a drone strike in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Trump's direct order.
Tehran later retaliated by launching missiles at locations in Iraq from which the strike was carried out, but stated that the ultimate revenge was the end of US presence in the region.
Soleimani headed the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps, which is in charge of Iran's overseas operations and had a key role in defeating the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group in Iraq.
His martyrdom sparked massive protests by mourners both inside and outside of Iran.
Zarif said despite the assassination, he would not rule out the possibility of negotiation with the US because Washington is always likely to change its approach.
JCPOA Not Dead
Zarif was also asked about the status of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which has been unraveling since the US exit.
He said JCPOA is not dead although the European and Iranian parties have not fulfilled parts of the agreement.
"That doesn't mean it is dead," he said, adding that inspections and transparency about Iran's activities, which are an important part of the agreement, are still happening.
After the US departure, the remaining parties pledged to protect Iran's economic benefits under JCPOA against the US sanctions, but European signatories fell short of delivering on their promises over the course of one year.
Iran eventually began to scale back its commitments as per the JCPOA provisions.
Following Iran's final step away from its nuclear obligations, the European parties, France, Germany and Britain, referred the issue to the Joint Commission under the dispute resolution mechanism that could lead to the reapplication of the global sanctions by the United Nations Security Council.
Zarif stressed that the western parties have no legitimate grounds for referring the issue to UNSC.
"It's not only us who think this, but also the Russians and the Chinese."
Under the mechanism, the issue would go to the UNSC within a 30-day timeframe if not adequately addressed, but Europe has recently agreed to an extension.
"Notwithstanding differences on modalities, there is agreement that more time is needed due to the complexity of the issues involved. The timeline is, therefore, extended," the European Union said in a statement on Friday.
Zarif argued that Iran had already triggered the process in 2018 as a result of which the remaining parties stated, among other things, that it is essential for Iran to benefit economically from the nuclear agreement.
"But the Europeans didn't do anything. They have not fulfilled their obligations," he said.
Among Europe's feeble efforts was the launch of INSTEX (the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges), a special purpose vehicle to enable companies to do business with Iran despite the US sanctions.
Zarif said the mechanism has been basically an accounting company without any practical function.
"More than a year and a half after the US withdrawal from the JCPOA, the Europeans haven't succeeded in carrying out a single transaction," he said.