US must take first step to lift Iran sanctions, prove commitment to JCPOA: China FM

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)
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks at the 9th World Peace Forum in Beijing on July 3, 2021.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi says the United States must take the first step to lift the unilateral sanctions it has imposed on Iran to show its commitment to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which was abandoned by the US three years after its conclusion.

Speaking on Saturday at the 9th World Peace Forum organized by Tsinghua University and the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs, a government-run policy group, Wang urged the US to rejoin the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), amid the ongoing talks in the Austrian capital aimed at reviving the landmark agreement.

"The US should correct its mistakes. It should fully and completely remove all its illegal and unilateral sanctions on Iran and any third party, to meet Iran halfway and make further breakthroughs in the negotiation,” the top Chinese diplomat said.

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

Since April, representatives from Iran and the remaining signatories to the JCPOA — France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China — have been holding face-to-face talks in Vienna with the purpose of bringing the US back to compliance and putting the deal back on track.

Trump’s withdrawal was criticized by candidate Joe Biden, who defeated him in the November presidential election. Biden had promised to rejoin the JCPOA but the US is yet to take a concrete, verifiable step to that goal.

The talks have, however, dragged on, signaling that the US is still refusing to meet Iran's key conditions for it to return to the JCPOA.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Wang said it is most critical for the US to make an earlier decision to rejoin the nuclear agreement.

“The US' unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA and its maximum pressure on Iran are the root causes of the current Iranian nuclear crisis,” Wang said, adding, “As the saying, goes, he who tied the bow should untie it.”

The sixth round of the Vienna talks between Iran and the P4+1 group of countries concluded on June 20 as the negotiators returned to their capitals for further consultations.

This is the longest break the diplomats have taken since the beginning of the negotiations.

Throughout the Vienna talks, Iran has insisted that the United States, as the first party that abandoned its contractual undertakings, should be the first party to return to its commitments by removing its sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Tehran has also sought assurances that the next US administration will not violate the deal again.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday commended “significant progress” made in the Vienna talks, urging the United States to completely and unconditionally renew all its obligations to return to the JCPOA.

"If the United States unilaterally withdrew from the agreement and thereby violated the UN Security Council Resolution [2231] in a gross manner, then, probably, the US return to the JCPOA presupposes a complete and unconditional renewal of all obligations," he said.

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