Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian says Iran is ready to resume talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal but the administration of US President Joe Biden is sending a “negative sign” by keeping illegal sanctions on Tehran.
Amir-Abdollahian made the remark in an interview with NBC News on Thursday, saying Iran remains ready to restart the nuclear talks “very soon” but the US administration is refusing to remove the sanctions and imposing new ones.
The top Iranian diplomat said Biden needed to back up his talk of diplomacy with concrete actions to show Iran that Washington is serious about restoring the 2015 nuclear deal.
“They say, ‘We are ready to return to the fulfillment of our commitments.’ However, there is no action taken in order to show and prove the true will to the new Iranian administration, to the Iranian nation. And worse than that, simultaneously, they have managed to put on new sanctions,” Amir-Abdollahian told NBC News.
The Iranian foreign minister said it was up to the United States to demonstrate its seriousness about returning to the accord after former President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the landmark deal three years ago.
“In other words, President Biden was and is criticizing the behavior of his predecessor, Mr. Trump vis-à-vis Iran, but at the same time, the volume of the file of sanctions that Mr. Trump built against Iran is being carried carefully by Mr. Biden,” he said.
Amir-Abdollahian asked NBC News that if the US was serious about pursuing negotiations, then why it was “piling up” its coercive measures against Tehran. “This is a negative sign, signal to Iran,” he added.
“The reality of the matter is that for years, we have not obtained any benefits from the JCPOA,” the foreign minister said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Actions as the nuclear accord is officially called.
He said the new Iranian government is currently evaluating the talks undertaken by the previous Iranian administration.
“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,” Amir-Abdollahian stressed.
Iran and six world powers—the US, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany—agreed on the JCPOA in 2015. Three years later, the JCPOA was unilaterally abandoned by Washington under Trump and more sanctions were introduced as part of the so-called maximum pressure campaign, in spite of Tehran’s hitherto strict compliance with the multilateral accord.
The parties to the JCPOA began high-profile talks in Vienna earlier this year after the Biden administration voiced willingness to rejoin the deal and remove the draconian sanctions his predecessor slapped on the Islamic Republic.
Since the beginning of the Vienna talks, Tehran has argued that the US—as the first party that violated the JCPOA—needs to take the first step by returning to full compliance with the agreement. Tehran also says it will resume all of its nuclear commitments under the deal only after the US removes all the sanctions in practice.
Revenge for assassinations
Addressing a series of assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and other suspected acts of sabotage blamed on Israel, Amir-Abdollahian said Iran is prepared to retaliate as needed to any attack on its national security.
“If we obtain reliable proof beyond dispute, we will respond in kind, swiftly, and without any equivocation,” he told NBC News.
Commenting on the assassination of Iran’s senior anti-terror commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike in January last year, Amir-Abdollahian 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.”
On January 3, 2020, the US military conducted an air operation under Trump’s order to assassinate General Soleimani at Baghdad airport after his arrival in Iraq. The attack also killed the general’s companions, including Deputy Commander of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
As part of its retaliation, Iran launched a volley of ballistic missiles at the Ain al-Asad airbase in Iraq’s western province of Anbar and another airbase in Erbil on January 8, 2020, as a result of which 110 US troops were diagnosed with “traumatic brain injuries”.