Iran waits for Biden to make the first diplomatic move: ambassador

January 26, 2021 - 21:15

TEHRAN - Iran's Ambassador to the United Nations Majid Takht-Ravanchi has said Iran has no plans to hold talks with the Biden administration and is waiting for the new U.S. president to take the first step to lift sanctions and return the U.S. to the 2015 nuclear deal.

In an interview with NBC News, the Iranian diplomat said that Iran has not spoken to the new U.S. administration yet and is not planning to initiate any talks with the U.S.

“No, there has not been any conversation between Iran and the U.S. after Biden came into office,” Takht-Ravanchi said.

He pointed out that Iran is not in a rush to get the U.S. to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“It's up to the U.S. to decide what course of action to take. We're not in a hurry,” the Iranian ambassador noted, adding that Iran is willing to see the new U.S. president make good on his campaign promise to return the U.S. to the JCPOA and if he did, Tehran would be ready to once again abide by the terms of the accord.

The new U.S. president, Joe Biden, had expressed willingness to rejoin the agreement during his election campaign. “I will offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy. If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations. With our allies, we will work to strengthen and extend the nuclear deal's provisions, while also addressing other issues of concern,” Biden wrote in a September op-ed for CNN.

After he won the U.S. presidential election in November, Biden said he still stood by the views articulated in the op-ed but said that rejoining the nuclear deal would be “hard.”

Takht-Ravanchi said now it’s up to the U.S. to make the first move.

“The ball is in the U.S. court,” he said. “It is totally up to the new administration. So as soon as they implement their obligations, Iran has said on numerous occasions that Iran will return to the full implementation of its undertakings.”

He added that it would be "absurd" for Iran to take conciliatory steps now when it was the U.S. that violated the 2015 agreement by withdrawing.

“Words are not enough. We need to see action on the part of the United States,” said Takht-Ravanchi who was involved in the intensive talks that produced the JCPOA in July 2015.

Ever since Biden won the U.S. presidential election, Iranian officials have said repeatedly that Tehran won’t make the first move to revive the JCPOA and that the U.S. needs to make the first move.

“The ball is in the U.S. court now. If Washington returns to Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, we will also fully respect our commitments under the deal,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said last week.
 
“If they (the Biden administration) sincerely return to law, we will return to our commitments. It became clear for the world and our nation that the policy of maximum pressure and economic terrorism against Iran has failed 100%,” the president continued.

The remarks come after Antony Blinken, Biden’s choice for secretary of state, called for patience before making any decision on the JCPOA. He said on Tuesday Washington would not take a quick decision on whether to rejoin the JCPOA.

“We are a long way from there,” Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 19.

Iran said it will not do anything on the JCPOA as long as the U.S. does not uphold its obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 2231. “Our position is the same as we previously said: the U.S. and other remaining parties to the JCPOA must lift the sanctions and effectively implement the deal,” Saeed Khatibzadeh, spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, said in a press briefing on Monday.

Nothing will be done by Iran as long as the U.S. doesn’t comply with Resolution 2231, Khatibzadeh remarked. “If the new U.S. administration is willing [to rejoin the JCPOA], it must show that it is distancing itself from the previous administration and return to the right path of implementing its commitments,” he insisted.

The spokesman echoed the position of another Iranian spokesman. Ali Rabiei, the spokesman for Iran’s government said in mid-November that Iran expects the Biden administration to return to the JCPOA.

“We expect the new White House officials to unconditionally return to all their previous obligations and commitments,” Rabiei said in an interview with the IRIB news agency in mid-November. “In the first step, sanctions and barriers to the transfer of Iranian money must be lifted and the U.S. administration must be held accountable for the damage it has done to the Iranian people during this period.”

‘Iran open to prisoner exchange’

In addition to the JCPOA, Takht-Ravanchi addressed the prospect of Iran and the U.S. exchanging prisoners. He said Iran would be open to an exchange of Iranian nationals detained in the United States in return for American citizens imprisoned in Iran.

“We are ready to engage on a comprehensive exchange of all prisoners or detainees on both sides, in the United States, in Iran, and those that are waiting to be extradited to the United States. And this is a very simple and straightforward proposition,” the Iranian ambassador said.

SM/PA

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