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Rouhani: US must honor commitments, lift sanctions for diplomacy to survive

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has told British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the US must honor its commitments and lift sanctions on Iran if it seeks a diplomatic end to the stalemate surrounding the 2015 landmark nuclear agreement.

“If we are after diplomacy, the path is clear… It’s the lifting of sanctions and the US fulfilling of its commitments, and there is no other option,” Rouhani said during a call with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday.

He said while the new US administration has voiced willingness to rejoin the nuclear deal and implement its commitments, it has failed to take any practical measure whatsoever.

Known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal was unilaterally abandoned by the US under former President Donald Trump in 2018. President Joe Biden has promised to re-enter the JCPOA, which was struck in 2015 between Iran and six world powers, namely the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany.

The Biden administration has also called for negotiations with Iran on the JCPOA, saying they wish to “lengthen and strengthen the deal”, and use the JCPOA as a platform to “negotiate follow-on agreements” – all of which have been dismissed by Tehran as long as the US refuses to rejoin the pact and fulfill its obligations, which include lifting of sanctions on Iran.

Biden administration officials have tried to press Tehran into choosing the path of “diplomacy” by taking the initiative in returning to full compliance with the JCPOA and agreeing to talks with the US on the deal and other issues.

“The path to diplomacy is open right now. Iran is still a ways away from being in compliance (with the deal). So we’ll have to see what it does,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month.

Rouhani pointed to the fact that the US withdrawal was a unilateral action, saying they did not negotiate their way out of the JCPOA, and therefore, do not need to negotiate their way into the deal.

“International cooperation has been damaged as a result of Trump’s policies, and unfortunately the United Nations and the Security Council have not been able to function properly and impartially during this period, and now it is time to work together to address such a shortcoming,” he noted.

The president laid out Iran’s unwavering policy as an “action-for-action” approach with regard to JCPOA commitments, saying that “Iran cannot and should not be the only party paying the price of preserving the JCPOA.”

He explained that all of Iran’s measures have been taken within the framework of the JCPOA with the aim of bringing a state of equilibrium to the deal in order to preserve it, making a reference to Iran’s reduction of its commitments under the JCPOA in response to the US withdrawal and harsh sanctions.

The president pointed out that the Iranian people have been faced with greater problems in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and other health issues due to the sanctions as well as the problems created by the US and its allies that have hindered Iran’s access to its financial resources outside the country.

“The international community has shown that it is not ready for a civilized fight against the crisis, and that it pursues protectionist and discriminatory tendencies,” he noted. “This is undoubtedly a moral failure for the international community.”

Rouhani also raised the issue of 400 million pounds in debt Britain owes Iran for a 1970s arms deal with pre-Islamic Revolution Iran.

“While we see that most countries are repaying their debts to Iran or unblocking Iran’s frozen assets, it is very strange that no practical progress has been made by Britain to pay back its 40-year-plus old defense debt to Iran,” Rouhani told Johnson.

“Undoubtedly, accelerating the repayment of Iran’s claims would be effective in solving other problems in bilateral relations,” he added.

Johnson, for his part, said while the UK “remains committed to making the Iran nuclear deal a success, Iran must stop all its nuclear activity that breaches the terms of the joint comprehensive plan of action and come back into compliance.”

Johnson "stressed the importance of Iran seizing the opportunity presented by the United States’ willingness to return to the deal if Iran comes back into compliance,” a statement from Johnson’s office said.

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