By Negar Asadi

Room for negotiations is ‘wide open’ if U.S. lifts sanctions on Iran, Zarif says

July 16, 2019

TEHRAN – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said that the room for negotiations is wide open if U.S. President Donald Trump lifts sanctions against Iran.

“The U.S. has always had sanctions on Iran, it’s unfortunately addicted to sanctions, but there have been sanctions that have been imposed since President Trump came to office. Once those sanctions are lifted then room for negotiations is wide open,” he told NBC News in an interview aired on Tuesday.

“We are at the bargaining table. It is the United States that left the bargaining table. And they’re always welcome to return. Provided that they are willing to live by. The U.S. can go back to implementing its obligations and come back to the bargaining table,” he added.

Pointing to Iran’s action in reducing some commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal, he said, “We have an agreement and that agreement includes remedies. One side of the agreement starts violating it and we waited for about a year before starting to use those remedies, but those remedies are within the agreement and the U.S. leaving the agreement was not within the agreement and they just decided to leave it. We are free to stop partial implementation and it can be reversed within an hour.”

“We did negotiate already with the U.S. for somebody outside of the U.S. for any government outside the U.S., it does not matter who is in the White House that is the business of the American people. We dealt with a government of the U.S. which at the time was constitutionally elected and after that the President Trump was constitutionally elected. We did not have a revolution in the U.S. and it was just a democratic change of government and it does not mean that we need to do everything all over again. Just imagine people need to do every agreement with the U.S. every four year every eight years. It won’t allow regular normal relations between nations to continue,” he noted.

‘Iran not interested in developing nuclear weapons’

Zarif also said that Iran is not interested in developing nuclear weapons.

“Had we been interested in developing nuclear weapons, we would have been able to do it long time ago,” he said.

On negotiation with the Trump administration, he said, “Once you start accepting illegal demands there will be no end to it. We agreed to a deal. It was a bargain. It was a give and take. We cannot accept a premise that what’s mine is mine what’s yours is negotiable. It was give and take. Iran gave up some of its achievements and we received something in return. Of course, neither Iran nor the U.S. got everything they wanted. That’s the name of the game. As Kissinger has said, an agreement is good only if neither sides like it.”

‘Amount of weapons being sold to region should be discussed prior to talks on Iran’s ballistic missiles’

Zarif also said that tens of billions of dollars of weapons that are being sold to Arab countries in the Persian Gulf region should be discussed prior to talks on Iran’s ballistic missiles.

“If you want to discuss ballistic missiles then we need to discuss the amount of weapons are being sold to our region. Let’s start with what we already agreed. Let us see what we can do and then if you want to discuss ballistic missiles then we need to discuss the amount of weapons are being sold to our region. Last year, Iran spent sixteen billion dollars altogether on its military. We have an 82 million population. Almost a million people are on the arms and we spent only 16 billion dollars. The United Arab Emirates with a million population spent 22 billion. Saudi Arabia with less than half of our population spent 67 billion dollars, most of them are American. These are American weaponry that is going to our region, making our region ready to explode. So, if they want to talks about our missiles they need first to stop selling weapons including missiles to our region,” he said.

Commenting on the U.S. accusation that Iran has been involved in provocative activities in the region, he said, “Let me ask you who is bombing Yemen? Who is invading Bahrain? Who kept the prime minister of another country prisoner? Are we involved at all in North Africa? Why do you have chaos in North Africa? Is Iran involved in Sudan? If you want to look at the right place for those who have malign activity in our region, the U.S. needs to look at its own allies not on Iran.”

‘Nobody can maintain security in Persian Gulf without Iran’

Zarif also said that Iran is the biggest power in the Persian Gulf and nobody can maintain security in the Persian Gulf waters without Iran.

“It is clear that we have 5000 miles of border with the Persian Gulf. It is called Persian Gulf for a reason. It’s not a gulf from Mexico. It’s next to us. We are the biggest power in the Persian Gulf, in the Strait of Hormuz and it is in our vital international security interests to maintain safety and security and freedom of navigation there. Nobody can maintain security in those waters without Iran,” he said.

‘We are open to the American companies doing business in Iran’

Zarif also said that Iran wants to be able to do business with the rest of the world and “if the U.S. is interested in doing business with Iran, we are not close to that.”

“We are open to the American companies doing business in Iran. We are not in a position to engage in confrontation to anybody that is not our desire, but if we are put in a place that we need to defend ourselves we will certainly do it,” he added.

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