TEHRAN -- Foreign Minister Hussein Amir-Abdollahian says Washington’s “contradictory behavior” is a major obstacle to the Vienna talks this month aimed at putting the accord back on track.
Iran, he told his Swiss counterpart Ignazio Cassis over phone, is “ready and serious to reach a good and immediate agreement” in the talks that would start in Vienna on November 29, “but at the same time it is distrustful of U.S. behavior”.
“On the one hand, the U.S. 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 U.S. 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.
U.S. special envoy Rob Malley said Tuesday the United States would not “sit idly” on Iran if it dragged its feet on returning to a nuclear accord in talks resuming next week.
“If they start getting too close, too close for comfort, then of course we will not be prepared to sit idly,” he said.
Malley said, “We’re prepared to get back into the deal and to lift all of the sanctions that are inconsistent with the deal. So if Iran wants to get back into the deal, it has a way to do that.”
“If it doesn’t want to get back into the deal, if it continues to do what it appears to be doing now, which is to drag its feet at the nuclear diplomatic table and accelerate its pace when it comes to its nuclear program, if that’s the path it chooses, we’ll have to respond accordingly.”
Iran insists the U.S., as the party which abandoned the nuclear deal, has to take the first step to undo its past wrongs before the Islamic Republic rescinds its countermeasures.
Former U.S. president Donald Trump left the JCPOA in May 2018 and reimposed the anti-Iran sanctions that the deal had lifted. 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 U.S. 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.
Amir-Abdollahian met with Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), here Tuesday and urged the body to keep cooperating with the Islamic Republic within the framework of its technical duties and avoid taking political positions.
He said that he wanted to deepen cooperation with Iran in his talks in Tehran, but as in the past, he made disparaging remarks after leaving the Islamic Republic.
Grossi claimed in Vienna Wednesday that his inspectors were close to being unable to “guarantee” they knew the size of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium.
“Our negotiations have been inconclusive, meaning that we could not finish,” Grossi told reporters in Vienna, where the IAEA is based, after addressing the agency’s board of governors. “I’m not giving up on trying to find some understanding, but in terms of what we were discussing yesterday, we could not conclude an agreement.”
Pressed on whether any progress had been made, Grossi said that “in terms of the substance, no, quite clearly, we were not able to make progress.” However, he said that having got to know the new Iranian officials was “a positive element” and “this will certainly help.”
Then he claimed “We are close to the point where I would not be able to guarantee continuity of knowledge.”
On Tuesday, Grossi went to the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, the country’s civilian nuclear agency, and met its new head, Muhammad Eslami. He also met Amir-Abdollahian, who said Iran was determined to have “constructive engagement” with the IAEA to “improve mutual trust and cooperation”.
On Wednesday, a deputy foreign minister and nuclear negotiator for Iran, Ali Bagheri Kani, traveled to the United Arab Emirates and met with a prominent Emirati diplomat, Anwar Gargash. The UAE’s state-run WAM news agency described the meeting as dealing with “regional and international developments of common interest.”