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Iran says will continue sanctions removal talks with seriousness, rejects granting many concessions to P4+1

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (R) and his visiting Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein attend a joint press conference in Tehran on December 23, 2021. (Photo by IRNA)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian says the Islamic Republic will continue negotiations for the removal of sanctions imposed on the country in the Austrian capital with seriousness, emphasizing that Tehran will never give excessive concessions to the opposite side.

Iran’s foreign minister made the remarks while speaking in a joint press conference with his visiting Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein in Tehran on Thursday, saying, “During the recent negotiations in Vienna, we managed to come up with a single draft and a single agenda after two rounds of talks and this was a major progress.”

Iran's foreign minister then criticized "non-constructive" stances taken by some European signatories to the nuclear deal with Iran during the previous round of talks in Vienna.

“In the previous negotiations, the positions taken by some European countries, especially French, were in general not constructive. We expect the French side to focus on playing a constructive role and help [the progress of] the negotiations,” Iran's top diplomat said.

Amir-Abdollahian added that the second problem with regard to the three European signatories to the landmark 2015 agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is that “in practice, they did not put forward any new initiative in the talks.”

The top Iranian diplomat said European Union's deputy foreign policy chief, Enrique Mora -- who represents the bloc in the Vienna talks between Iran and the P4+1 group of countries -- and EU foreign policy chief, Joseph Borrell, are making efforts to focus on the negotiations with seriousness.

Tehran, he added, believes that the EU and its foreign policy chief are, in general, playing a positive role in the Vienna talks.

“We explicitly announce that we will pursue our serious negotiations in Vienna with goodwill and seriousness and with an eye on achieving a good agreement, and we hope that the other parties would also continue [the talks] with the same approach,” Amir-Abdollahian pointed out.

He recommended that the five remaining signatories to the JCPOA should have no doubt that “if they want to give one concession and get 10 concessions [in return], the Islamic Republic of Iran will never accept such an approach.”

The Iranian foreign minister noted that the American side, which is not allowed to directly participate in the talks as a result of its 2018 withdrawal from the JCPOA, has sent some "unwritten messages" to the Vienna meetings and has “received suitable responses in this regard.”

Amir-Abdollahian lashed out at some members of the P4+1 group of countries for constantly expressing concern over the progress of Iran’s nuclear program and said, “We declare vociferously that if you want your concerns about Iran's peaceful nuclear to be dispelled, all sanctions imposed in relation with the JCPOA must be removed.”

“The Islamic Republic of Iran, with its strong logic, will continue the negotiations until a good agreement is reached, and once the opposite parties show their serious will, that will be the day when we can talk about the return of all parties to their commitments under the JCPOA,” the Iranian foreign minister emphasized.

The JCPOA was inked by Iran and six world powers in 2015. Under the deal, Tehran agreed to put limits on certain aspects of its nuclear activities in exchange for the removal of international sanctions imposed against the country.

In 2018, however, the US exited the pact and began to unilaterally implement what it called the maximum pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic, effectively depriving Iran of the deal’s benefits by forcing third parties to stop doing business with Iran.

Iran and the five remaining parties to the JCPOA -- Britain, Germany, France, Russia and China -- resumed talks in Vienna on November 29 after a five-month hiatus, marking the first round of negotiations under President Ebrahim Raeisi’s administration and the seventh overall.

During the seventh round of the Vienna talks, Iran presented two draft texts which address, separately, the removal of US sanctions and Iran’s return to its nuclear commitments under the JCPOA. Tehran also said it was preparing a third draft text on the verification of the sanctions removal.

Iran and the P4+1 group of countries resumed the talks in the Austrian capital on December 9 after being paused on December 3, when the participants returned to their capitals for additional consultations on the two draft proposals that Tehran had put forward.

As the seventh round of discussions in Vienna concluded on December 16, Iran’s chief negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani said the three European parties to the JCPOA, also known as the E3, intimately agreed to accept Tehran’s viewpoint as a basis for “serious, result-oriented” talks.

He added that the pace of reaching an agreement depends on the will of the opposite side, adding, "If the other side accepts the rational views and positions of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the new round of talks can be the last one and we can achieve a deal in the shortest possible time."

He criticized the E3 for failing to present a specific constructive initiative during the talks, saying, “They previously announced that they have proposals and initiatives on some topics, including the issue of guarantees, but we received no proposal or initiative from them during this round of talks.”

Iran, Saudi Arabia will hold next round of talks in Baghdad

Elsewhere in the presser, Amir-Abdollahian hailed the efforts made by the Iraqi government to help clear misunderstandings between Iran and Saudi Arabia, saying that Tehran would participate in the next round of talks with Riyadh, which would be held in Baghdad.

“In the last round of talks, we offered a set of practical and constructive proposals to the Saudi side. God willing, the two countries’ delegations will meet in Baghdad in the near future and will work on the implementation of the next phase of the agreements,” the top Iranian diplomat added.

He also voiced Iran’s readiness for the two countries’ technical delegations to visit their ' respective embassies and make necessary preparations for the restoration of mutual relations, saying, “We, however, have to wait and see when this will happen and as a result of which round of the Iran-Saudi talks in Baghdad.”

Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran in January 2016 after Iranian protesters, enraged by the Saudi execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, stormed its embassy in Tehran. 

For years, the kingdom pursued a confrontational foreign policy toward the Islamic Republic, but it recently appeared to have changed track.

The two Middle East heavyweights have held four rounds of talks since April, including a first meeting last month with the government of Raeisi.

In an interview with France 24 last month, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, said his country is committed to substantive dialogue with Iran on addressing common concerns of regional countries, adding that Tehran and Riyadh plan to hold another round of talks soon.

Saud said the four previous rounds of talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia have been so far "exploratory in nature. They have been cordial but not substantive."

"We are committed to a substantive discussion with Iran on addressing the concerns we and other countries in the region have. That would allow us to come to a normal relationship… but that would require to address all the concerns that we all have," the top Saudi diplomat added.

The Iraqi foreign minister arrived in Tehran on Thursday at the head of a delegation to hold talks with senior Iranian officials. Following his talks with Amir-Abdollahian, he sat down with Iran’s President Raeisi.

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