Iran has reached an agreement with the United Nations‘ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to continue allowing inspections of its nuclear sites for the next three months – postponing a deadline Iran had tied to U.S. sanctions relief.
Speaking to Press TV on Sunday after the decision, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif announced again it is the U.S. that must make the first move and lift all sanctions before it will return to the terms set out by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal.
“The U.S. will not be able to rejoin the nuclear pact before it lifts sanctions,” Zarif said. “Once everybody implements their side of obligations, there will be talks.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has often said the opposite, insisting Iran must rejoin the deal before sanctions are lifted, meaning for the moment there is a standoff about which country makes the first concessions.
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However, it emerged this week that the Biden administration was already in talks with Iran – national security adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed that Blinken was in contact with Tehran about American hostages, with the Iranian foreign ministry confirming that contact had been via the Swiss embassy.
The announcement stoked fears that the Biden administration may make concessions to bring Iran back into compliance.
Speaking Monday, Blinken also said he was looking to “lengthen and strengthen” the Iran deal to include ballistic missile tests and “destabilizing regional behavior” – something Iran has ruled out.
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Iran has been gradually breaching terms of a 2015 nuclear pact with world powers since the U.S. withdrew in 2018 under former President Donald Trump and reimposed sanctions. The pact aims to keep Iran at arm’s length from being able to make nuclear weapons, which Tehran says it has never wanted to build.
President Biden has said he is ready to talk about both nations returning to the accord, although the two sides have been at odds about who makes the first step, with Zarif saying the U.S. was addicted to sanctions.
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“Biden claims that Trump’s maximum pressure policy was maximum failure … but they have not changed that policy [toward Iran],” Zarif said. “The United States is addicted to pressure, sanctions and bullying … it does not work with Iran.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday. Erdogan reportedly told the Iranian leader that a window of opportunity exists right now for American economic sanctions to be lifted from the Islamic republic.