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Iran not to reduce nuclear activities before US removes all sanctions: Chief negotiator

Iran’s deputy foreign minister for political affairs says Tehran will not reverse the reduction of its nuclear compliance before the US removes all its sanctions and returns to the landmark nuclear deal it abandoned under former US President Donald Trump.

“Until the United States removes all of its sanctions and returns to the JCPOA, none of Iran’s nuclear activities, especially in the field of enrichment, will be halted or even reduced,” Abbas Araqchi said late Thursday, according to IRNA.

Araqchi’s remarks come as intensive talks are underway in Vienna to lift the unilateral US sanctions on Iran and revive the JCPOA, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, after the former Trump government almost wrecked it by its withdrawal.  

Back in May 2019, Iran began to scale down its nuclear compliance under Article 36 of the JCPOA, saying the move was a response to the US withdrawal and the remaining parties’ failure to protect Iran from US sanctions.

Under a law passed by the Iranian Parliament last December, the Iranian administration started to produce and store enriched uranium with a 20-percent purity level, breaking the 3.67-percent enrichment parameter set by the 2015 nuclear agreement.

However, Tehran has repeatedly said its measures will be reversed as soon as Washington removes its illegal sanctions.

Araqchi: 20% enrichment moving faster than planned

“Our 20% enrichment is now moving even faster than the speed envisaged by the Islamic Consultative Assembly (the Iranian Parliament) in its law, and 20% enriched materials are being produced now,” Araqchi said.

He asserted that the process will continue until an agreement on the implementation of the JCPOA is reached, under which the US should remove all of its sanctions.

“As it has been stressed many times, all of the sanctions must be removed in one step,” the top Iranian negotiator added.

Araqchi also denied indirect talks with Washington through the European parties to the JCPOA, saying the talks involve China and Russia in addition to the Europeans.

“We are negotiating here with all of the current members of the JCPOA, namely the three European countries, Russia and China, as well as the European Union, which is the coordinator of the JCPOA, and they, on the other hand, are talking to the Americans and convey the results of the talks,” he said.

The senior diplomat noted that there are signs that the Americans are reviewing their positions and are moving toward removing all of the sanctions.

“But we are not yet in a position to judge, and negotiations have not yet been concluded,” he said, adding that there is a long path forward but the talks are constructive.

Araqchi also said on Thursday that the Iranian negotiators are engaged in talks over the removal of sanctions all at once as well as details of which and how the sanctions would be lifted.

“In our view, America has to take its actions in one step, then we’ll verify, and then Iran will follow with its own actions,” he reiterated. “How verification will happen is another point of our discussion.”

He made similar remarks while speaking with Press TV’s correspondent in Vienna.

“The US must remove anti-Iran sanctions; then Tehran would resume compliance with the JCPOA,” the deputy foreign minister told Press TV on Thursday.

US says ready to lift sanctions ‘inconsistent with JCPOA’

US State Department spokesman Ned Price on Thursday declined to respond directly to whether the US would remove all of the sanctions in one go.

“Well, our response to specific proposals is best delivered in engagement with our European allies and with the Russian and Chinese partners on the ground in Vienna,” he said at a press briefing on Thursday after he was asked to comment on Araqchi’s remarks.

Price described the talks as constructive and as accomplishing what they set out to do.

“And in fact, these discussions have been constructive. This forum has been constructive; it has been businesslike; this has been a step forward,” he said.

The American spokesman also voiced his country’s preparedness to “take the necessary steps to return to compliance with the JCPOA and that would include lifting sanctions that are inconsistent with the JCPOA.”

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