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President-elect: US must return to nuclear deal with Iran, fulfill its commitments under accord

President-elect Ebrahim Raeisi holds his first news conference in Tehran on June 21, 2021 after winning a landslide victory in Iran's presidential election on Friday.

Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raeisi says the United States must return to full compliance with the 2015 landmark nuclear deal with Iran, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and fulfill its commitments as per the accord.

Raeisi made the remarks during his first press briefing attended by representatives of domestic and foreign media outlets on Monday, following his election as Iran’s next president.

Asked what message he had for the United States and Europe, Iran’s president-elect said, “I emphatically urge the United States to return to the JCPOA and comply with its commitment. The Iranian people expect you to abide by your obligations.”

“European countries and the United States must look and see what they have done to the JCPOA. The United States violated the JCPOA while European countries [who were parties to the JCPOA] failed to comply with their obligations,” Raeisi said.

“We tell the United States that you have to remove all sanctions [imposed on Iran] and must return [to the nuclear deal] and fulfill your obligations. Europeans must not be influenced by the US pressure and must act upon their commitments. This is what the Iranian nation wants from you,” Iran’s president-elect said.

'Removal of sanctions followed by verification, pivot of our foreign policy'

Elsewhere in his interview, Raeisi said the main focus of his administration’s foreign policy will be to make sure about complete removal of unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States after Washington’s illegal withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Tehran, followed by verification of sanctions removal.

“The United States must respond to the world. It has been frequently emphasized [by Iran] that the United States must comply with its obligations and remove all cruel sanctions [it has imposed on Iran],” Raeisi emphasized.

“The Iranian nation is not satisfied with the JCPOA, because it has failed to deliver on its promises and the reason is that Americans violated their obligations while Europeans failed to observe theirs as well.”

He said the United States’ “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran has failed to bring the Iranian nation to their knees.

The US, under former President Donald Trump, left the JCPOA in 2018 and initiated a “maximum pressure” policy against Iran, prompting Tehran to take remedial measures by gradually reducing its nuclear commitments under the deal.

President Joe Biden has said Washington is willing to return to the pact if Tehran first suspends its countermeasures taken in response to US violations and re-impostion of sanctions.

Iran says the onus is on the US to revive the deal as it was Washington, not Tehran, that left the internationally recognized accord in defiance of global criticism.

'Iran will not pursue attritional talks to bring US back to JCPOA'

Elsewhere in his Monday interview, Raeisi said his administration will not pursue attritional talks with world powers with the aim of bringing the United States back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Raeisi emphasized that the US must remove the sanctions in a verifiable way in order for Tehran to reverse the nuclear steps it took in response to the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal.

In response to the US unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA, Tehran has so far rowed back on its nuclear commitments five times in compliance with Articles 26 and 36 of the deal, stressing that its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as Europe finds practical ways to shield the mutual trade from the US sanctions.

Raeisi said the current negotiating team involved in the ongoing talks in the Austrian capital, Vienna, will continue to hold the negotiations as the transition to the new administration takes place.

Raeisi noted that the Iranian people have shown resistance and perseverance in the face of the maximum pressure campaign, which included tough economic sanctions targeting the people’s livelihood.

“The foreign policy of our administration will not start from the JCPOA nor will it be restricted to the JCPOA,” he said, stressing that he intends to develop constructive and balanced relations with all countries.

Raeisi said any negotiation that secures Iran’s national interests will be supported by his administration, but “we will not tie the economic situation and people’s [livelihood] to these negotiations and we will not allow talks for the sake of talks.”

‘Iran’s missile program not open to negotiation’

Asked about a proposal by US President Joe Biden to sign a new deal with Iran to address the country’s missile program and regional influence as well, Raeisi said, “Issues related to [Iran’s] regional [influence] and missile program are not open to negotiation.”

“There was an issue (Iran’s nuclear program) which was negotiated and an agreement was reached and an accord was concluded and they promised to remain committed to it. However, they did not do that; now, on what grounds do they want to raise other issues?”

“Why Mr. Biden does not observe obligations accepted by former [US] administrations? Whey Mr. Biden does not fulfill his duty with regard to obligations that the US administration has undertaken?”

Raeisi added, “I seriously propose to the US administration to rapidly return to compliance with its obligations, remove all sanctions [imposed on Iran] and prove through removal of all sanctions that it is honest.”

When Raeisi was asked by a foreign report whether he would be ready to hold a meeting with the US president, Iran’s president-elect said, “No.”

'Relations with neighbors a priority for us'

Asked about the future outlook for Iran’s relations with Saudi Arabia, Raeisi said, “We have announced [our decision to establish] relations with all countries in the world and to interact with all of them.”

“Relations with neighboring countries is particularly important for us. Our priority will be to establish relations with neighbors.”

Iran’s president-elect said from the viewpoint of the Islamic Republic, there is no obstacle to reopening of Iran’s and Saudi Arabia’s embassies, adding, “This policy has been announced before and I reiterate that there is no impediment to [establishment of] relations with Saudi Arabia and all the countries in the region.”

'Saudi attacks on Yemeni people must stop immediately'

Raeisi also touched on the issue of Saudi-led war on Yemen, saying, “The Islamic Republic stresses that the war against Yemen must come to a rapid halt and Yemen must be run by Yemenis."

"It is only for the Yemeni people to decide how their country should be managed,” Raeisi said, emphasizing that there should be no interference in Yemen's affairs by Saudi Arabia or countries that support Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

“We emphasize that the war against Yemen and Saudis' attacks on the oppressed people of Yemen must stop as soon as possible,” Iran’s president-elect said.

'Iranians stressed need to fight corruption, poverty, discrimination'

In his opening remarks, Raeisi said the Iranian nation voiced their message to the world through the presidential poll, noting that “one message was national unity and coherence.” 

“The message of the Iranian nation was the necessity of a change in the economic situation,” he said.

The message of the Iranian nation, he continued, was the need to fight corruption, poverty and discrimination, and in one word the realization of justice in all aspects of the people’s lives.

“This vast and meaningful presence of the people occurred in spite of the coronavirus situation and hostilities and the psychological warfare of Iran’s enemies,” he said.

Raeisi said the message of the Iranian nation is insistence on the values of the glorious Islamic Revolution and steadfastness on the path of the late founder of the Revolution, Imam Khomeini, and the martyrs, especially General Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated in January 2020 by the United States.

Raeisi vows to restore public trust in Iran's administration

Elsewhere in his remarks, Raeisi pledged to bring back the lost public trust in the Iranian administration, saying he hopes people will feel that his administration is the administration of bringing hope and building trust.

The president-elect promised that his administration will not be limited to a specific political party or group, pledging that he will be open to any governmental manager who is a patriot and wants to serve the people and the Islamic Revolution.

“Anyone whose heart beats for the people and the Revolution will be our partner everywhere in the country,” he added.

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