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Iran FM: Contradictory US behavior presents major obstacle in Vienna talks

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian

Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian says the United States’ “contradictory behavior,” characterized by a purported desire to return to the 2015 nuclear deal and all the while expanding sanctions against Iran, is a major obstacle to the Vienna talks aimed at putting the accord back on track.

In a telephone conversation with his Swiss counterpart, Ignazio Cassis, on Tuesday, Amir-Abdollahian said Iran was “ready and serious to reach a good and immediate agreement” in the talks that would start in Vienna, Austria on November 29, “but at the same time it is distrustful of US behavior.”

“On the one hand, the US pretends to be interested in returning to the JCPOA, but on the other, it has imposed sanctions on Iranian individuals and companies in two stages over the past few weeks. America’s contradictory behavior is one of the main obstacles to the negotiations,” he added, referring to nuclear deal by the acronym of its official name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The top Iranian diplomat also emphasized that the Islamic Republic would judge the US based on its behavior.

Envoys from Iran and the P4+1 group of countries — Britain, France, Russia, and China plus Germany — are expected to hold the seventh round of discussions in Vienna on November 29.

The negotiations were paused in June, when Iran held a presidential election. Since then, the new Iranian administration has been reviewing the details of the six rounds of talks held under the previous administration.

Former US president Donald Trump left the JCPOA in May 2018 and re-imposed the anti-Iran sanctions that the deal had lifted. He also placed additional sanctions on Iran under other pretexts not related to the nuclear case as part of his “maximum pressure” campaign.

Following a year of strategic patience, Iran resorted to its legal rights under the JCPOA, which grants a party the right to suspend its contractual commitments in case of non-compliance by other signatories, and let go of some of the restrictions imposed on its nuclear energy program.

The US administration of President Joe Biden has said it is willing to compensate for Trump’s mistake and rejoin the deal, but it has shown an overriding propensity for maintaining some of the sanctions as a tool of pressure.

Tehran insists that all sanctions must first be removed in a verifiable manner before it reverses its remedial measures.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Amir-Abdollahian said that Tehran-Bern relations were on the right track and that a recent visit by Switzerland’s President of the National Council Andreas Aebi to Iran marked a turning point in bilateral parliamentary ties.

Referring to the efforts underway to resolve problems on the way of the activities of Swiss companies in Iran, he stressed the need to boost relations between the two countries in various sectors, including science, education, agriculture, transportation, health and banking.

The Swiss foreign minister, for his part, pointed to the importance of relations with Iran and explained the status of a trade channel between the two states.

The two chief diplomats also discussed the crisis in Afghanistan

Amir-Abdollahian said Iran continued to encourage the ruling administration in Afghanistan to form an inclusive government, expressing concern over the humanitarian situation in the South Asian country amid the winter season.

His Swiss counterpart also announced his country’s readiness to cooperate in the transfer of aid to Afghanistan through Iran.

Bern agrees with Tehran on the need to form an inclusive government in Afghanistan, he said, praising Tehran for attempting to find a diplomatic solution to the Afghan crisis as well as hosting refugees.

‘IAEA should avoid political positions’

Additionally on Tuesday, Amir-Abdollahian met with Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Rafael Grossi (L), director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), meets with Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Tehran on November 23, 2021. (Photo by IRNA)

During the meeting, the Iranian foreign minister urged the UN nuclear watchdog to keep cooperating with the Islamic Republic within the framework of its technical duties and avoid taking political positions.

Grossi, for his part, said he stands ready to resolve the remaining technical issues between the IAEA and Iran with goodwill and close cooperation in the shortest possible time.

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