Iran Sets Out Conditions For Renewed Talks With The US

(Argus, 24.Jun.2020) — Iranian president Hassan Rohani has reiterated Iran’s willingness to resume talks with the US, but only if Washington apologises for withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal, returns to it and compensates Tehran for the economic damage and losses incurred as a direct result of US sanctions.

US president Donald Trump lived up to one of his chief campaign promises in May 2018 by walking away from the landmark nuclear deal that the US had signed with Iran as part of the P5+1 group of world powers. Trump said he felt the deal did not do enough to curb Iran’s nuclear programme.

“They [the US] created the problem, broke the negotiating table and left,” Rohani said in a televised speech aired this morning. “An apology to the Iranian people and a return to its commitments under the P5+1 framework can be the way forward [to resume negotiations].”

For more than a year after the US exited the nuclear deal — known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — Tehran continued to abide fully with its commitments, despite the reimposition of harsh US sanctions on Iran’s key energy and banking sectors. But inaction by the pact’s remaining signatories to support Iran in the face of these sanctions prompted the Iranian leadership to begin gradually winding down its compliance in the second half of last year. It took its fifth and final step in January by removing the restrictions that were placed on it by the JCPOA on the number of centrifuges installed at its two uranium enrichment sites in Natanz and Fordow.

Although relations between Washington and Tehran remain fraught, the Trump administration appears to be making renewed overtures towards Iran for talks. Just three weeks ago, after the release of US navy veteran Michael White who had been detained in Iran since January last year, Trump called out to Iran in a tweet, urging its leaders to talk, “make a better deal now” and not wait until after the upcoming US elections.

The presumptive Democratic nominee in the presidential race, former vice-president Joe Biden, has previously said that if he wins, the US will resume its commitments under the JCPOA — including oil sanctions relief — as long as Iran resumes full compliance with the deal.

In his speech today, Rohani dismissed Trump’s calls for talks as “baseless” and “a waste of time”.

“The White House has repeatedly said it is ready to negotiate with Iran, while Iran is delaying in order to wait for the elections,” he said. “But we are not delaying anything. We are always ready to negotiate… Once the US surrenders to the law, apologises and gives compensation… we have no issues.”

“These comments are a waste of time, and only due to the upcoming elections and the problems they are currently facing,” Rohani said. “If not, instead of these words, [the US should] apologise and abide by the rules.”

Rohani’s comments come just days after the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, stepped up its pressure on Iran to grant its inspectors access to certain locations and to clarify possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities in Iran.

Such unfettered IAEA access to Iranian nuclear facilities was a key element of the JCPOA.

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By Nader Itayim

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