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Iran’s top negotiator: Ball in US court, Americans must remove sanctions

Iran’s chief negotiator in Vienna talks Ali Baqeri-Kani (file photo)

Iran’s top negotiator to the Vienna talks on the removal of sanctions imposed on Tehran says the ball is now in US court to remove the bans because Washington has violated not only the nuclear deal with Iran, but also the United Nations Security Council resolution that upheld it and other international laws.

Speaking in an an exclusive interview with Middle East Eye published on Thursday, Ali Baqeri-Kani pointed out that Washington was the party that unilaterally walked away from the nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in 2018, and re-imposed sanctions on Iran, which had been lifted by the deal.

“Therefore, now the ball is in the court of the Americans. The Americans must remove the sanctions,” he said.

Baqeri-Kani stated that Tehran is dead set on the negotiations, underscoring the fact that he was accompanied by 40 top officials to support his assertion.

The JCPOA was abandoned by former US President Donald Trump in May 2018. Trump then targeted Iran’s economy with what he called the “maximum pressure” campaign, but he failed to compel Iran to negotiate a “new deal.”

Iran and the five remaining parties to the JCPOA began the talks in the Austrian capital in April with the aim of removing Washington’s unlawful sanctions against the Islamic Republic after the US voiced interest to return to the agreement.

Diplomats from the participant countries gathered in Vienna on Monday for the seventh time, after a hiatus in the talks because of presidential election in Iran.

No ‘less for less’ deal; no ‘JCPOA plus’

In another part of his remarks, Iran's top negotiator dismissed recent claims that Tehran was considering an interim deal or a “less for less” agreement. He also rejected the “JCPOA plus” suggestion, which would include broadening the nuclear deal to include other issues as well.

“The issue of the negotiations now is not related to Iran. It is related to the United States,” he said, arguing that US violation of the JCPOA, UN Security Council Resolution 2231, and international law put the onus on Washington.

The senior diplomat told Press TV earlier on Thursday that Iran has provided the five remaining parties to the JCPOA with draft documents detailing its proposals and positions on the removal of US sanctions and the nuclear steps that should be taken by Iran.

The content of the drafts, he said, includes all of the proposals and positions of the Iranian negotiating team.

“Naturally, the other side should study the documents and prepare for serious negotiations with the Islamic Republic of Iran regarding the drafts submitted to them,” he told Press TV, expressing hope that the other parties will be able to “reach a conclusion in the shortest time possible.” 

Missile talks out of question: Baqeri-Kani

Elsewhere in his interview with the Middle East Eye, Baqeri-Kani made it clear that Iran will not hold talks with the US about the Islamic Republic’s regional role, adding that he was in “constant touch” with Iran’s neighbors and had gone to the UAE and Kuwait before arriving in Vienna.

He then said it was “crystal clear” that Iran would not negotiate on its missile force either.

“And as for our defensive capabilities, our benchmark is to secure and guarantee our national security, and it is crystal clear that no one is going to negotiate over their national security.”

Throughout the previous rounds of the talks, which were held under Iran’s former president Hassan Rouhani, the US repeatedly said it wanted to “lengthen and strengthen” the nuclear deal and build on it with follow-on arrangements to include other issues such as Iran’s missile program.

Iran, on the other hand, firmly rejected any plan to discuss other issues with the US and its regional allies.

The country’s officials have said the US and other extra-regional countries are in no position to talk about the region. At the same time, however, they have welcomed talks with regional countries to work out regional issues.

In recent days, Tehran has vehemently dismissed the idea of reaching a less for less agreement that would not remove all US sanctions or a more for more deal that would require Iran to negotiate its missile program.

‘US had already dishonored JCPOA’

The Iranian lead negotiator also pledged to “restore the right of the Iranian nation.”

He explained that neither the US, before it left the deal, nor the Europeans who remained, have properly removed sanctions or traded with Iran.

“We also believe that the implementation of the JCPOA has not been precisely followed during the past several years,” Baqeri-Kani said.

“The Americans, when they were in the JCPOA and had not yet withdrawn even at that time, they were not implementing the JCPOA comprehensively. So is the case with the Europeans that did not withdraw from the JCPOA, but in practice, they failed to fully comply with the deal.”

In 2019, a year after the US withdrawal from the JCPOA, Iran invoked the “dispute resolution mechanism” enshrined in the deal and began to reduce its contractual obligations legally. Tehran cited US sanctions and other signatories’ failure to deal with them as the reason behind triggering the mechanism.

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