TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Iran wants the removal of Trump-imposed sanctions, a senior official said April 4 ahead of a Vienna meeting that could draw a roadmap to normalize the country’s trade.
"We don’t have any step-by-step plan or proposal and we don’t accept any. In our view, there is only one step and not more,” deputy foreign minister for political affairs Abbas Araqchi, said.
"The US should remove ... all sanctions that were reimposed after Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA or newly imposed or relabeled ... and then we verify and return to our commitments,” Araqchi said.
The sanctions in question include those curbing Iran’s oil supply to global markets and cutting its access to petrodollars. The insurance and shipment of Iranian oil tankers as well as the global money transfer SWIFT mechanism are also among Iran’s top priorities in a long list of U.S.-initiated sanctions.
Iran, which historically has had the capacity to produce more than 4 million b/d, has seen its production fall from an average of 3.55 million b/d in 2018 to below 2 million b/d for much of 2020. The U.S. implemented new sanctions on Iran in May 2018 after abandoning the nuclear deal.
Iranian crude production has risen in recent months, hitting 2.14 million b/d in February, according to the latest S&P Global Platts survey of OPEC output, a 190,000 b/d increase from a 33-year low of 1.95 million b/d in August. Much of that rise has come from higher volumes to China, buoyed further by climbing oil prices in 2021.
Data intelligence firm Kpler estimates Iran exported some 896,000 b/d of crude oil and dirty petroleum products to China in March, up from 406,000 b/d in February and the highest level since April 2019.
"The final step which they should carry out, and we too, should be defined precisely. And this will be
only worked out in our technical talks with the 4+1 countries,” Araqchi said, pointing to the April 6 meeting with the nations involved in the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the 2015 nuclear deal including European leaders, Russia and China.
This time however, Washington will have envoys in Austria while the talks are being held. Iran doesn’t recognize formal talk with the U.S. on the grounds that it has quit the JCPOA.
"If the 4+1 countries could convince the Americans in this regard and in any way they know, it’s obvious that we will see through too ... we will have neither direct nor indirect talks with the U.S.,” the top diplomat stressed.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the main goal of the forthcoming session is the removal of all U.S. sanctions in a single step.
"The agenda of this commission meeting is the removal of all U.S. cruel sanctions against Iran, and in other words, clarification of how parties should fulfill their commitments,” he told a weekly press briefing.
"The path is clear. All U.S. sanctions must be removed at once. Then it must be verified and only then, the Islamic Republic will take its step,” the spokesman said.
"In other words, we have only one step and not step-by-step lifting of sanctions, and this one step includes the lifting of all sanctions imposed by the United States. In return, Iran will be ready to reverse its remedial measures, which were taken because of the opposite sides’ violation of the treaty,” Khatibzadeh said.
He added that the Tuesday meeting in Vienna is no different from previous sessions of the Joint Commission of the nuclear deal and is just a periodical meeting between Iran and the P4+1 similar to those held in the past months.
Senior officials from Iran, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China will attend the JCPOA Joint Commission on Tuesday in what appears to be the first serious push to reinvigorate the deal since January 20, when Joe Biden was sworn in as the new president of the United States.
Khatibzadeh said the meeting is a purely technical one held to discuss the lifting of all U.S. sanctions in one step. "If we could reach an agreement with the P4+1 and they could guarantee that U.S. would comply with its commitments, then the way forward would be open.”
Asked about recent remarks by Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister about the JCPOA and that Saudi Arabia should be present in the JCPOA talks, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said, "I am very sorry that Riyadh still lacks the courage to engage in talks free from the will of trans-regional and interventionist powers in our region. It is a cause for regret that Riyadh is still setting its sights on out-of-the-region capitals, and this is the biggest hurdle on the way of the region for achieving a totally indigenous and intra-regional mechanism.”
Khatibzadeh said Saudi Arabia’s position on the JCPOA is clear, because Riyadh "took destructive measures both when it was under discussion and after that.”
"Therefore, there is nothing new with what the Saudi Arabia foreign minister has said. He has only missed the point that the JCPOA has been already discussed, negotiated, signed, sealed and put on the shelf,” he added.
Khatibzadeh said, "We recommend Saudi Arabia to join intra-regional talks and distance itself from the destructive path it is following right now. In that case, the region will certainly open its arms to Saudi Arabia.”
Khatibzadeh stated that during Tuesday talks, Iran will provide the P4+1 with a roadmap to delineate the path that should be taken by the United States as well as a comprehensive list of sanctions, which must be lifted.
"The Foreign Ministry has contacted all state bodies and organizations about sanctions that must be lifted.... all U.S. sanctions will be put forth and all those sanctions must be lifted followed by verification. The Islamic Republic of Iran will discuss technical aspects of verification with the P4+1,” the spokesman said.