Iran demands sanctions are lifted before any direct talks with Washington

6 April 2021

Head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) Ali-Akbar Salehi said on 3 April that the stalemate over the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is about to be broken. Under the JCPOA between Iran the P5+1 group of countries (the USA, UK, France, Russia, and China plus Germany) Iran agreed to limit its nuclear development in return for the lifting of sanctions.

However, US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal and reimpose sanctions in 2018 prompted Iran to revive its nuclear programme while informing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the steps being taken.

IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi visited Tehran in February prompted by the imminent implementation of a law passed by the Iranian parliament that would have effectively ended IAEA monitoring of Iran’s nuclear programme. Grossi secured an agreement with Iran for continued face-to-face meetings between Iranian and IAEA technical experts to tackle outstanding technical issues. This will run in parallel with a 90-day bilateral technical understanding agreed earlier in February during a previous trip by Grossi intended to buy time for further diplomacy between Iran and the US Biden Administration.

“The issue of talks on the JCPOA has now entered into the technical phase and the early wrangling over it is already through, which means the early deadlock is about to be broken, and this is promising,” Salehi said in a Clubhouse discussion moderated by Entekhab news website. “Negotiations are to be held in Vienna next week at the technical level, and technical issues are the pivotal point with regards to the JCPOA within a legal and political context,” he added. However Salehi underscored that the talks, which open on 6 April, are not being held with the United States; rather, he added, negotiations are being held within the framework of the P4+1 Group. Iran is demanding that all sanctions must be lifted before any direct talks with the US can begin.

Iran’s Foreign Policy Commission Spokesman Abolfazl Amouei again rejected any "gradual and step-by-step return of US to the agreement”. He told Al-Masirah network, "Iran legally reduced its obligations under Articles 26 and 36 of the nuclear deal. Iran's steps to reduce its obligations are legal and within the framework of the nuclear deal because it was the American side that withdrew. "He added: "The US move to return to the nuclear deal is a retreat from the wrong decision to pull out of the deal. The policy of maximum economic pressure imposed on Iran has, by their own admission, failed, and sanctions must be completely lifted."

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