Iran is ready to resume nuclear talks “very soon”, but the Biden administration sent a “negative message” by failing to lift economic restrictions and imposing new sanctions on Tehran, Iran’s foreign minister said to NBC News.
The foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, told NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell that President Joe Biden needed to back up his talk of diplomacy with concrete actions to show Iran that Washington is serious about restoring a 2015 nuclear deal. They claim that they are ready to fulfill our commitments. However, no actions have been taken to prove and show the will of the new Iranian government, or the Iranian nation. Amirabdollahian stated that they had managed to simultaneously impose new sanctions.
Amirabdollahian was named top diplomat by Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline cleric elected in June.
The foreign minister, echoing previous statements from the new Iranian government, stopped short of saying exactly when Iran would be ready to return to talks with world powers to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement. Since June, when Iran’s presidential election was held, the talks to restore the agreement, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), remain deadlocked. President Raisi’s new government has stated that it is evaluating the results of previous negotiations.
Amirabdollahian said it was up to the United States to demonstrate it was serious about returning to the accord after former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal three years ago. He stated that while President Biden is criticizing Mr. Trump’s behavior vis-a-vis Iran and Mr. Biden is also carefully monitoring the size of the sanctions Mr. Trump has imposed against Iran.
If the United States wanted to pursue negotiations, why was it “piling-up” actions?, asked the foreign minister. This is a sign to Iran,” he stated.
The foreign minister said “the reality of the matter is that for years, we have not obtained any benefits from the JCPOA.” But the new Iranian government is now evaluating the talks undertaken by the previous Iranian administration, he said.
Amirabdollahian said that “we are assessing and I can tell you that we have had many meetings and we will keep the window of diplomacy and negotiations open. And we will very soon return to the negotiations.”
Since Raisi entered office last month, he and his deputies have signaled a tougher line on restoring the 2015 nuclear agreement, raising the possibility that no deal will be reached between Tehran and Washington any time soon.
After six rounds of negotiations, the U.S.-Iran negotiators seemed close to reaching a deal. The two sides had outlined an accord that would see both governments return to the 2015 nuclear agreement.
The new president and his team seem to not be in a hurry to resume negotiations, even though U.S. economic sanctions continue to damage Iran’s economy.
The 2015 deal, also signed by the U.K., China, France, Germany and Russia, limited Iran’s nuclear program in return for easing U.S. economic sanctions. In 2018, President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement, reimposed sanctions on Iran and introduced more sanctions as part of what he said was a “maximum pressure” campaign.
Amirabdollahian said Iran had held “constructive talks” this week with German and British officials on the nuclear issue and planned to meet with French officials on Friday. When asked about Americans held in Iran, he replied that Iran is open to the exchange of Iranian and American prisoners. He said that he sees a prisoner swap as a humanitarian issue and that it has the potential to be a purely humanitarian matter.
The foreign minister addressed a series of assassinations that nuclear scientists have been claiming was caused by Israel and said that Iran was ready to respond to any attack on its security. He stated that if we have reliable evidence beyond doubt, we will immediately and without equivocation respond in kind.
Commenting on the killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a U.S. drone strike in January 2020, he said Iran did not consider the case closed.
“From our viewpoint,” he said, “the file so to speak will not be closed. Those who were the perpetrators and carried out that act of terrorism against a national hero and the champion of Iran in the fight against terrorism must be brought to justice.”