Iran ‘optimistic’ on nuclear talks if US plays ball

Published October 9, 2021
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, centre, speaks during a press conference at the Iranian embassy, in Beirut, Lebanon, on Friday. — AP
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, centre, speaks during a press conference at the Iranian embassy, in Beirut, Lebanon, on Friday. — AP

TEHRAN: Iran is optimistic talks on reviving a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with major powers will bear fruit, provided the US fully resumes its commitments, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Friday.

The deal, which gave Iran sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear programme, has been on life support since 2018, when then US president Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out and re-imposed crippling sanctions.

US President Joe Biden has signalled a willingness to return to the deal, but his Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned last week that time was running out and the ball was in Iran’s court.

Iranian FM says Saudi talks on ‘right track’

Amir-Abdollahian said Iran was looking for concrete signs from the US that it was ready to resume all of its commitments but said he was confident a deal could be done if it was.

“It is important that we receive signals from the other side, including from the United States, showing that they are intent on returning fully to their commitments,” the minister told a news conference in Beirut.

“We are assessing the behaviour of the United States. If it reflects a full return to their commitments, we can be optimistic about the Vienna talks.” The talks in the Austrian capital between Iran and the remaining parties to the agreement — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — have been on hold since a June election in Iran led to a change of president.

New President Ebrahim Raisi — an ultraconservative former judiciary chief — is thought to be less ready than his predecessor Hassan Rouhani to make concessions to the West for the sake of a deal.

Tehran has gradually rolled back its nuclear commitments in response to the US pull-out, and Washington has been demanding that Iran return to its obligations too.

The United States has had no seat at the Vienna talks but has been participating indirectly.

Amir-Abdollahian said in Moscow on Wednesday that he expected the talks to resume “soon”.

“We are coming back to the Vienna talks,” the minister said in Beirut Friday.

“We are nearing a final decision within the Iranian government. It is very important to the new government that the interests and rights of the Iranian people be fully guaranteed in the talks. We will not waste our time in negotiations.”

Bilateral ties

Discussions between Iran and Saudi Arabia are on the right track, but it will take more time to restore bilateral ties, Iran’s foreign minister said in Beirut on Friday.

Iran and Saudi Arabia, on opposing sides in multiple regional conflicts, have been engaged in talks since April with the aim of improving relations, for the first time since cutting ties in 2016.

The discussions were launched under Iran’s former moderate president Hassan Rouhani and have continued since his ultraconservative successor, Ebrahim Raisi, took office in August.

“The Iran-Saudi dialogue is on the right track,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said during a news conference at the Iranian embassy in Beirut, on the second day of a 48-hour visit to Lebanon.

“We have achieved results and agreements, but we still need more dialogue,” he added.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2021

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