Interview: Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Says No Negotiations with US until Sanctions Lifted

By , 04 Sep 2019, 15:55 PM Politics
Interview: Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Says No Negotiations with US until Sanctions Lifted Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi’s Twitter

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STA, 4 September 2019 - Iran does not see a chance of negotiation with the United States until the US returns to the Iran nuclear deal and until it lifts sanctions against Iran, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi has told the STA. He believes it is still possible to save the historic 2015 deal, but it will not be easy.

The Iranian diplomat, who talked to the STA on the sidelines of the Bled Strategic Forum, said that saving the deal would require real determination on the part of the remaining signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the deal is officially called.

He explained that when the US decided to leave the JCPOA 18 months ago, the three European signatories - France, Germany and the UK - asked Iran to stay in the deal and they will find practical solutions in order to compensate for the absence of the US and let Iran benefit from the lifting of sanctions.

"There are joint statements at the ministerial level between Iran and foreign ministers of the remaining participants in the JCPOA in which they committed themselves to find those practical solutions in eleven different areas, like banking, trade insurance, transportation, investment.

"But as a matter of fact they have failed to do that in the past 18 months, they have not been able to create even a single banking channel for their own companies to do business with Iran. I don't want to say they don't want it, but they are certainly not able to do that."

Araghchi notes that every deal is based on a balance between takes and gives. "Iran's gives are exactly the same, but Iran's takes are now next to zero because of the reimposition of US sanctions."

He says that a deal like that cannot last. "We need to restore a balance. What we expect from Europeans is to restore the balance ... create an atmosphere and mechanisms to let Iran enjoy from the benefits of the deal."

"Since that has not happened, we have started to reduce our commitments in order to restore the balance from the other way. We gave Europeans a whole year before we did that and we gave them enough chance, we gave diplomacy enough chance but it didn't work.

Iran is now reducing its commitments, but it does that "step by step, two months between each step, so there are still windows for diplomacy. I hope Europeans can use those windows to save the deal."

Araghchi welcomed the latest initiative from French President Emmanuel Macron to solve the situation, which he says has been developed in communication between Macron and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

"Now we have a better understanding of each other, we have made good progress but there are still some differences that we have to overcome," he said, adding that France too still needed to overcome differences with their own partners in and outside Europe.

The Iranian official does not see a possibility for Iran to sit down with the US at the moment, noting that Iran negotiated with the US, Russia, China and the three European countries in good faith.

"We concluded the deal in good faith and we implemented the deal in good faith and there more than 15 reports by the IAEA confirming Iran's full compliance to the deal."

"So what was the result - the US withdrawal from the deal, reimposition of sanctions and the policy of maximum pressure. So why should we negotiate with them any more? Our trust and confidence have been totally lost."

Iran would be willing to re-enter negotiation with the US if the US lifted the sanctions, especially oil and banking sanctions. "If Iran were able to sell its oil and take the money back, then we go back to the full implementation of the JCPOA."

Araghchi does not see a chance of a meeting between President Rouhani and US President Donald Trump as long as the maximum policy pressure is in place and as long as the US is out of the deal.

Commenting on relations with Slovenia, Araghchi said: "Slovenia and Iran enjoy a very good relationship based on mutual interest and mutual respect ... We have good economic relations, they could have been much much better if there were no US sanctions."

He noted untapped opportunities, adding that all channels between the two countries were open and active. He said that President Borut Pahor's successful visit to Tehran in 2016 helped the expansion of relations.

The Iranian official is having bilateral consultation at the Foreign Ministry in Ljubljana today.

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