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‘Lift sanctions first,’ Iran says to US offer of renewed nuclear talks

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarilifted says Iran will ‘immediately’ return to the nuclear deal once the US lifts sanctions – KAREN MINASYAN /AFP

Tehran repeated its assertion on Friday that the United States must lift sanctions before Iran will return to the 2015 nuclear accord, but said it was ready to comply “immediately” once this was done.

When sanctions are lifted, “we will then immediately reverse all remedial measures. Simple,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter.

Since the election of President Joe Biden, Washington has offered to revive talks with Tehran aimed at restoring the agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear activity, which former president Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned in 2018 before reimposing tough economic sanctions.

In response, Iran reduced its compliance with the accord by increasing its stockpiles of low-enriched uranium, enriching it to a higher level and installing more advanced centrifuges.

The United States said this week it was ready to talk to Iran about both nations returning to an agreement at the same time after earlier insisting that Iran must honour its compliance commitments before Washington re-engages.

“Remember, Trump left the room and tried to blow it up,” tweeted Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh in response on Friday.

“Gestures are fine. But to revive P5+1, US must Act: LIFT sanctions,” he said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the deal is formally known. “We WILL respond.”

However, on Friday White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Biden’s administration had “no plan to take additional steps” such as lifting sanctions in advance of having a “diplomatic conversation”.

In a bid to break the deadlock, a senior European Union official said on Friday that the EU hoped to arrange an informal meeting between all the original signatories to the agreement: Iran, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany, and the European bloc.

The EU has not yet scheduled the meeting or sent invitations but reviving the agreement is an urgent priority for world powers, Reuters reported the official as saying.

“I don’t think Iran will say no to any practical attempt for an informal meeting, with all the countries around the table, that would be a basis for putting the JCPOA back on track,” the official said, adding that the United States had already responded positively to the idea of an EU invitation to talks.


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