Top Iranian negotiator reveals ‘biggest’ obstacle to progress in nuclear talks

April 11, 2021 - 21:16

TEHRAN – A senior Iranian diplomat leading Iran’s negotiating team in Vienna talks has called on the United States to lift all of its sanctions, describing the sanctions as a major obstacle to moving forward.

“The biggest obstacle is Washington's desire to maintain sanctions,” Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi was quoted as saying by Japanese broadcaster NHK.

He also said the U.S. must lift all sanctions imposed under Donald Trump, not just those related to the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“Our position is actually that if the U.S. is interested to come back to the JCPOA, they should not only lift all JCPOA-related sanctions but also sanctions imposed or reimposed or relabeled during the Trump administration,” the Iranian nuclear negotiator said.

According to NHK, Araghchi said the best outcome would be a conclusion within five or six weeks, citing Iran's willingness to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect nuclear facilities to some extent until late May.

The diplomat’s remarks came amid ongoing negotiations between Iran and the P4+1 over how to bring Tehran and Washington back to full compliance with the JCPOA.

The latest meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission, a group comprised of Iran and the P4+1 responsible for overseeing the implementation of the deal, was held on Friday.

During the meeting, participants received a report from the two newly-established expert groups, which were put together on Wednesday to conduct technical talks over how to revive the JCPOA and what measures are needed to be done by Iran and the U.S. in this regard. One of the groups is tasked with specifying the sanctions that the U.S. should lift to revive the deal while the other is discussing how to reverse the nuclear measures taken by Iran in response to the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA.

Receiving a report about these groups’ technical talks was the most important agenda of the Friday meeting, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday shortly after the meeting was concluded.

Araghchi underlined during the meeting Iran’s willingness to continue “serious interactions” but said that hinges on witnessing “political will and seriousness” on part of the other sides. “Otherwise, there will be no reason to continue negotiations,” he warned.

Araghchi reiterated that the lifting of all U.S. sanctions imposed during the previous U.S. administration was a necessary step in reviving the JCPOA and that only after verification of the lifting of these sanctions Iran would be ready to suspend its remedial measures and fully return to JCPOA.

At the end of the meeting, it was agreed that the next meeting of the Commission at the level of deputies and political directors to be held next Wednesday in Vienna. The Iranian Foreign Ministry said the Wednesday meeting will immediately be followed by technical and specialized intensive negotiations in the framework of expert groups to prepare a list of nuclear and sanctions measures that should be done by all parties to revive the JCPOA.

“Sanctions imposed after May 2018 are nuclear and their ‘tags’ have no relevance whatsoever”

In a tweet on Sunday, April 11, the Iranian mission to the European Union said all the sanctions that were imposed after 8 May 2018 ARE nuclear and their “tags” have no relevance whatsoever.”

The Brussels-based mission added, “They were once used to ‘nix the deal’, now to revive it, they must ALL BE REMOVED in addition to the sanctions that shall be removed in concert with the JCPOA.” 

On Sunday, a source close to the Vienna discussions told Press TV that a possible U.S. removal of sanctions merely related to the 2015 agreement with Iran is not enough and that all sanctions, including those re-labeled under the administration of former President Donald Trump, will have to be terminated.

“It is not sufficient to only remove the JCPOA-related sanctions. Trump’s sanctions imposed under other labels need to be removed as well,” the source said, adding that the anti-Iran sanctions imposed by the administration of former President Barack Obama under the so-called Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) and the visa program will have to be terminated, the source added.

“In addition to the Trump-era sanctions, the United States must also remove the Obama-era sanctions that are in violation of the JCPOA.”

Iran also said it will need to verify the lifting of sanctions by the U.S. The source, speaking to Press TV on Sunday, specified that the minimum time required to verify the sanctions relief is three to six months and that Iran will not agree to a temporary lifting of the sanctions or their waiver.

A detailed report by the Iranian parliament's Research Center also said the verification of any U.S. removal of sanctions on Tehran would require at least three months.

“It is obvious that the real test of sanctions removal and fulfillment of measurable indices put forward by Iran is not possible in a matter of few hours or days, and would take at least 3 to 6 months. It is also necessary to verify within specified intervals (for example every six months) that the Iranian economy benefits from the removal of the sanctions,” the report said, according to Press TV.

The Press TV source underlined the need for a “definite” removal of the coercive measures, saying the U.S. envoy would return to Washington empty-handed from the next round of the Vienna talks scheduled for next Wednesday if America refuses to accept Iran's conditions.

Meanwhile, Press TV has independently verified through Iranian sources close to the Vienna talks that Iran will by no means give its consent to a suspension, ceasing or temporary waiver of the sanctions for a period of 120 or 180 days.

On Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif outlined Iran’s proposal for the U.S. to achieve participation in the nuclear deal.

“Iran proposes logical path to full JCPOA compliance: -U.S.—which caused this crisis—should return to full compliance first; -Iran will reciprocate following rapid verification; -All Trump sanctions were anti-JCPOA & must be removed—w/o distinction between arbitrary designations,” the chief Iranian diplomat said on Twitter.

Iran and the U.S. are locked in a bitter dispute over how to reach an understanding about the JCPOA. While Iran says the U.S. must lift all Trump-era sanctions, the Biden administration suggested that it may not lift all these sanctions. American officials hinted at a deadlock if Iran continues to demand that all the sanctions should be lifted.