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Iran rules out bilateral talks with US, urges Washington to lift sanctions

Tehran has ruled out the possibility of bilateral negotiations with the United States, saying Washington needs to change course and begin to honor its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of action (JCPOA).

“No bilateral negotiation with the US is necessary,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said at a press conference on Monday. “The US needs to return to its commitments, and if that happens, it will be possible to negotiate within the framework of the Joint Commission of the JCPOA.”

Back in May 2018, former President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the JCPOA and adopted a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran with the declared aim of forcing Tehran to negotiate a new deal.

Trump’s maximum pressure has been met with Iran’s “maximum resistance” policy, which includes austerity measures to weather the economic pressure as well as reducing Tehran’s commitments under the JCPOA.

Khatibzadeh said the first step is for the US to lift the sanctions on Iran and fully implement the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, rather than just re-entering the JCPOA.

He argued that the US cannot simply rejoin the nuclear deal by signing a piece of paper. “A signature on a piece of paper will not suffice.”

“If the Biden administration intends to correct the US’ wrong path, it should take practical measures,” he added.

US President Joe Biden voiced strong criticism of Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA during his 2020 campaign, when he also promised to rejoin the accord signed when he was vice president. However, he has failed to take corrective measures since he assumed office on January 20.

Tehran, in the meantime, insists that a US return to the deal would be meaningless unless the unilaterally-imposed US sanctions were lifted in the first place. 

Certain neighbors saw Trump as ‘window of opportunity’

The Foreign Ministry spokesman pointed out that Iran’s position has always been “cooperation and dialogue” in the region without any foreign interference.

Khatibzadeh criticized some of Iran’s neighboring countries for their “inappropriate measures” during Trump’s tenure. He said they saw Trump as a “window of opportunity” to use whatever they wanted.

“Some of our good neighbors in the region have taken some inappropriate measures under the illusion that Trump’s presence is a window of opportunity,” he said.

He called on Saudi Arabia to reverse course, end its war on Yemen and accept that intra-regional talks can lead to a mutual understanding between the countries of the region.

“Iran’s arms are wide open and we will welcome them,” Khatibzadeh added.

Afghan government informed of Iran-Taliban talks

Elsewhere in his remarks, Khatibzadeh said talks with the Taliban in Tehran last week were held at the request and knowledge of the Afghan government.

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with the Taliban’s top political leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and his entourage in Tehran.

“All of the talks have been held either at their request or with their knowledge,” Khatibzadeh said.

“We have always stated that we support the inter-Afghan dialogue,” he said, noting that the Taliban are part of the reality in Afghanistan and need to be recognized as such.

According to Khatibzadeh, no government can be formed in Afghanistan unless it is based on the achievements of the Afghani people.

“We regard as valid any agreement reached by the current government of Afghanistan, the groups and the people of Afghanistan including the Taliban,” the spokesman said. “But [such an agreement] would come out of the inter-Afghan dialogue and not out of the elimination of others, including the government.”

During his Sunday meeting with the Taliban’s representatives, Zarif said Iran supports the formation of an inclusive Afghan government representing people from all political groups and factions of the country.

He also pointed to US actions in the Central Asian country, advising that Washington is not a good mediator and peace broker.

The Taliban delegation arrived in Tehran last Tuesday at the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s invitation. Taliban representatives have paid several visits to Iran over the past months.

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