No intention to hold ‘bilateral talks’ with U.S. 

September 3, 2019 - 14:3

TEHRAN – President Hassan Rouhani of Iran said on Tuesday that holding “bilateral” talks with the United States is not on the agenda.

“We’ve said it before time and again, and we say it again that we have no intention to hold bilateral talks with the United States,” Rouhani told the parliament as he was defending his nominees for the post of education and tourism ministers. 

The United States, under President Donald Trump, abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018 and imposed the harshest ever sanctions on Tehran. However, Trump has been repeatedly calling for dialogue with Iran.

“We never did and never will. It has been the case in the past year and a half, and even in previous years. There have been calls for talks, but we never responded to them,” Rouhani added, according to the Mehr news agency.

The president said even during the nuclear talks between Iran and the 5+1 nations which produced the JCPOA in 2015, Iran did not hold bilateral talks with the United States.

The 5+1 nation included the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (Russia, China, France, Britain, and the U.S.) plus Germany.

Rouhani went on to say that it is still possible to hold talks with the United States as part of the 5+1 group if it lifts sanctions on Iran.

"The basis of our talks with the European side is that we want them to pre-purchase our oil and the revenues to be in our possession," Rouhani told the parliament.“If the U.S. lifts all of its sanctions against Iran, whether it returns to the JCPOA or not, it does not matter to us, it is still possible for the U.S. to be part of the 5+1.”

He stressed, "When we talk about negotiations, we only mean it under the situation in which all sanctions have been lifted; that is, the situation we previously had under the JCPOA.”

Tensions started to boil up between the U.S. and Iran after President Trump abandoned the nuclear agreement, returned sanctions and imposed new one. 

The Trump administration has been making repeated calls for talks, but the Islamic Republic stresses that as long as sanctions are in place and the U.S. refuses to return to the JCPOA, negotiations will be meaningless. 

"Our progress is a testament to the fact that resisting [against pressure] works. On the other hand, an active diplomacy can pave the way for us. We have never closed the doors of diplomacy and never will do so...we don't believe that only one of these two tools should be used," Rouhani stated.

About Iran's measures to scale down commitments to the JCPOA, Rouhani said, "If the remaining signatories to the nuclear deal can live up to a part of their commitments, we may reconsider reducing our commitments. But if they fail to take any solid step, we will definitely take the third step in a few days."

As a first step, Iran increased its enriched uranium stockpile to beyond the 300 kilograms set by the JCPOA. Next, it announced that it had begun enriching uranium to a purity level beyond the 3.76 percent permitted under the JCPOA.

Rouhani added, "The further we move along this path, it may make solving the issue more difficult, but since our steps are designed in a way that we can return to the starting point at any given time we desire, it will not take any time, and we will continue our talks even after taking the third step."

"The basis of our talks with the European side is that we want them to pre-purchase our oil and the revenues to be in our possession. This will ease the situation for us to decide against making more cuts to our commitments to the JCPOA," Mehr quoted Rouhani as saying. 

"We haven't reached a final agreement yet, but negotiations are still underway. If we fail to reach a conclusive result by Thursday, we will announce the third stage of our cuts to the JCPOA commitments," Rouhani concluded.

Some officials have noted that Iran's measures for the third step may include installing a new generation of centrifuges, increasing the stockpile of enriched uranium, or restoring the Arak heavy water reactor to its previous design.