FM: Iran is optimistic about a deal in Vienna

February 22, 2022 - 21:20

TEHRAN — In an interview with CNN published on Tuesday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said that he is very optimistic about a deal in Vienna.

Amir Abdollahian also said Iran considers certain issues as red lines which should be observed in the Vienna talks.

“There are some issues that are part of our red lines,” the foreign minister told the interviewer conducted on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. 

The following is the text of the interview:
Q: There seems to be a lot of cautious optimism, goodwill about the possibility of signing the JCPOA, of getting this Iran deal back into shape. Do you share that optimism? Is that coming from your side as well?

A: We are optimistic about the outcome of the negotiations in Vienna, but about that part of it which has to do with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Why are we optimistic? Because the administration of Dr. Raisi has a strong will to achieve a good agreement in Vienna.
The administration of Dr. Raisi is emphasizing an interested to achieve a good and urgent agreement. In order to achieve a good agreement, we have made a lot of efforts in the past weeks. I can say that we have never been this close to reaching a good agreement.

Q: That sounds super optimistic. I don't think I have ever heard an Iranian official or frankly, a European or an American talk so optimistically about the possibilities.

A: In order to get close to a good agreement, the Iranian team showed good initiatives and flexibility. But now, to the western side. The U.S. and the three European countries that should show flexibility and initiative. Flexibility and initiative by the Western side can bring the negotiations to a conclusion in a matter of a few hours or days. And all of us can then talk of the good agreement.
I would like to explain to you as to where we stand now in Vienna. On the one hand, we are receiving messages from Mr. Biden through different intermediaries. Mr. Biden is trying to tell the Iranian side that he has good will. On the other hand, Mr. Rob Malley does not show any flexibility of the negotiating table.
At the same time, they are requesting direct dialogue with the Iranian side. The American side is responsible for the JCPOA. The JCPOA was sabotaged by the U.S., and now, the U.S. should responsibly accept the responsibility for this and should show the required flexibility in order for the negotiations to come to a definite conclusion.

Q: OK. So, two questions there. What exact flexibility are you asking for?

A: There are some issues that are part of our red lines. Regarding the issue of guarantees, we have not yet received a practical and reliable initiative from the American side. We believe that all the issues, the nuclear issue and the removal of sanctions should be resolved in the form of a package.
On the return of all sides to the JCPOA, it cannot be that we should both accept the strict supervision system by the IAEA, but at the same time, see that some of our issues still remain part of the agenda of the board of governors of IAEA.
In 2015 also, the issue of safeguards were resolved in a political agreement. We think we can repeat that model. I said this to the German foreign minister last night as well. We think that if the U.S. and the Western side do not act real realistically at this sensitive moment and sensitive condition in Vienna, they will definitely be responsible for the probable failure of the negotiations. Well, we are trying with seriousness and optimism to achieve a good agreement.

Q: Unlike the last time, the United States is not speaking directly with Iran and vice versa. Your, I believe, it's the supreme leader has said no, that there shouldn't be direct talks. Why not? Because it would be much quicker and much to easier to know because it's really between you two. Wouldn't it be just quicker and easier?

A: There is a tall wall of mistrust between us and the Americans. I think you and your viewers know its reason.
The wrong policies of the Americans vis-a-vis the Islamic Republic of Iran. You see, over the last few weeks, we have received messages from different channels that U.S. officials are interested to have direct talks with us. Even a few days before coming to the Munich Security Conference, we received messages asking whether we were interested to talk to U.S. officials in the margins of the Munich conference. I clearly replied that the Americans should change their behavior. Mr. Biden cannot talk of good will on the one hand and on the other hand, in the past few months, he has imposed sanctions against real and legal persons three times. This means that Mr. Biden is following the method of Mr. Trump and continuing the sanctions. But at the same time, he's interested in returning to the JCPOA. We cannot understand these paradoxical behaviors. American official talking about goodwill and then imposing sanctions. Therefore, we have the right to monitor the behavior of American and judge them accordingly instead of considering their rhetoric of the criteria and trust them.
In Vienna also, Mr. Rob Malley is interested to talk with our senior negotiator, my colleague, Dr. Bagheri. Currently, this exchange is being carried out in the form of non-paper through Mr. Mora. But for us, the key question is, is there any benefit in talks between us and the U.S.? Is there any clear picture of this dialogue?

In September, when I was in New York, I said, if Mr. Biden had goodwill and was serious, as a gesture of goodwill, he should show a practical initiative, for instance, by unfreezing some of the Iranian assets. We are not asking Mr. Biden to give us loans through U.S. banks. We want him to release the funds that are owned by the Iranian nation as a gesture of goodwill. But so far, we have been told that things can happen after direct negotiations.

This shows that the Americans want negotiations for the sake of negotiation, not for a result that can help reach a good agreement.

Q: OK. So, the last question is this. It's a human rights question, but it's also a money question. Because you just brought up this issue about the U.S. unfreezing Iranian assets. We understand that the U.K. signed an agreement with your country to secure the release of Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe. It was meant to have been last summer, but the deal fell through.
Now, as we all know, also, there's a lot of money involved. Iran is due 400 million pounds for former arms purchases from the U.K. under the Shah, which it never received. So, you paid, you didn't receive. You want that money back. Would payment of that outstanding debt to Iran secure the release of Nazanin?

A: For us, the issue of swapping prisoners is completely a humanitarian issue. Last year also, there was an agreement on the basis of which prisoners were supposed to be exchanged regardless of Vienna talks. Even in the list of exchange of prisoners, the person you mentioned was also included. But unfortunately, in the last minute, the Americans announced that all of this should be included in a complete package.

The release didn't take place. Maybe the American are interested in covering the issue of exchange of prisoners as part of the Vienna negotiations. We believe this is a humanitarian issue and can be considered as an urgent measure outside the Vienna negotiations.

Q: Mr. Foreign Minister, thank you very much for joining us.

A: Thank you so much. All the best to you.

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