Ahead of nuclear deal meeting in Vienna, Iran calls for lifting of all US sanctions

Iranian officials said that there were no plans for meetings with US officials “directly or indirectly.” They also rejected any step-by-step proposal for the restoration of the deal, calling for the immediate withdrawal of sanctions

April 05, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
File photo : Iran Talks Vienna 14 July 2015. Photo : Wikimedia commons

Seyed Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, reiterated on Sunday, April 4, that the country has no plans of holding talks with the US, direct or indirect, during the joint commission meeting of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in Vienna on Tuesday. 

The “in-person” meeting of the joint commission, a mechanism that is part of the agreement, will be attended by all signatories. Its physical meetings were halted last year due to the COVID-19 outbreak and also due to disagreements between Iran and the EU members. Representatives from the European Union, China, Russia and the UK will be present at the meeting. It will be the first meeting of the mechanism since Joe Biden assumed office on January 20 this year. 

“We do not have any step by step plan or proposal and do not accept it,” Araghchi said on Sunday, reacting to speculations about gradual lifting of sanctions based on earlier proposals. 

Araghchi’s statement becomes crucial in the light of both Iran and the US saying on Friday that they will start indirect talks to resolve their issues in Vienna during the joint commission talks. The announcement was made after a virtual meeting of all the signatories of the nuclear deal and the US on Thursday. 

Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh, in a press conference on Monday, reiterated that “the agenda of this commission meeting is the removal of all US cruel sanctions against Iran and, in other words clarification of how parties should fulfill their commitments,” Iranian Press TV reported.  

The US had withdrawn from the deal under the Donald Trump administration in 2018, with the then president calling it “the worst deal ever.” The US subsequently imposed various economic and political sanctions on Iran, which in retaliation, withdrew from some of its commitments under the deal.

Iran had delayed its commitments under the JCPOA, which it calls “remedial measures,” after the withdrawal of the US, hoping that European signatories will devise plans to protect Iran from sanctions. However, the Iranians claimed that the EU signatories failed to play their role and instead complied with the US sanctions harming its economy.      

The Joe Biden administration has expressed its desire to join the deal but has refused to lift the sanctions first. The lifting of sanctions was an important precondition put forward by Iran for full compliance. 

Iran has alleged that the Biden administration is using the Trump-era sanctions as “leverage” and it cannot expect it to fully comply with the deal until it lifts all sanctions.

Thursday’s meeting was facilitated by the European signatories of the deal — Germany and France and the UK — along with Russia and China. 

After the meeting on Friday, US state department spokesperson Ned Price said that the resumption of talks at Vienna is a “healthy step.”

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had clarified after Thursday’s meeting that any kind of talks with the US at Vienna is not necessary and the joint commission will “rapidly finalize sanction-lifting” which will be followed by Iran ceasing “remedial measures.”  

He has also urged other signatories of the deal to stop abiding by the “unilateral illegal sanctions” imposed by the US on Iran and play a constructive role in Tuesday’s talks.