Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Tehran is prepared to start negotiations over its nuclear energy program if the US lifts illegal sanctions against the country.
“Iran is prepared to start negotiating.... We are willing to engage in negotiations. Of course the United States also needs to do certain things very rapidly,” Zarif said in an interview with ABC’s “This Week
” program on Sunday.
“One [condition] is to dismantle its illegal sanctions against Iran that are targeting ordinary Iranians,” he stated.
The Iranian foreign minister added that the resolution of Iran’s nuclear issue “will be a first step, a necessary first step, towards removing the tensions and doubts and misgivings that the two sides have had about each other for the last 30-some years.”
He added that Tehran and Washington have similarities in many ways, adding, both “have pluralistic societies where difference of views exists and difference of views are aired. And I think it's very healthy.”
“We believe that, if the United States is ready to recognize Iran's rights, to respect Iran's rights and move from that perspective, then we have a real chance and we negotiate with the full authority of the Leader [of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei],” the Iranian minister reiterated.
He expressed regret that there is lack of mutual confidence between Iran and the US and said as declared by Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and his US counterpart, Barack Obama, there has been 34 years of building up of this mutual distrust
“We need to move in that direction of removing some of that mistrust through mutual steps that each side needs to take in order to convince the other side that its intentions are positive and for a better future for all of us,” Zarif said.
Zarif, who is also serving as Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, reiterated that Iran’s nuclear program will always remain peaceful.
“We know that Iran is not seeking a nuclear weapon. Having an Iran that does not have nuclear weapons is not just your goal. It’s first and foremost our goal,” he said referring to his recent talks with his counterparts from the six major world powers in New York.
“We believe nuclear weapons are detrimental to our security. We believe those who have the illusion that nuclear weapons provide them with security are badly mistaken. We need to have a region and a world free from nuclear weapons,” the Iranian minister added.
Iran’s Zarif and his counterparts from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- China, Russia, France, Britain, and the US plus Germany -- held discussions about the Western dispute with Iran over its civilian nuclear program in New York on Thursday.
The minister emphasized that Iran’s right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes is “non-negotiable,” noting that it is a “certainty” that Tehran will never seek “military-grade uranium” and will never “move in that direction.”
Zarif further hit back at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s dismissal of Iran’s diplomatic efforts at the 68th annual session of the UN General Assembly as “a smile attack.”
“A smile attack is much better than a lie attack. Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues have been saying since 1991 … that Iran is six months away from a nuclear weapon. And we are how many years, 22 years after that? And they are still saying we are six months away from nuclear weapons.”
The West, led by the United States, accuses Iran of following non-civilian purposes in its nuclear energy program.
Iran has vehemently rejected the allegation, arguing that as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it is entitled to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.