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Iranian official: US must lift sanctions practically, verifiably before rejoining JCPOA

A senior Iranian official has reaffirmed that Tehran will return to full compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal only after the US lifts all the sanctions imposed on the country by the Trump administration and after Iran will be able to verify the termination of those sanctions.

In an interview with the official website of Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, published on Friday, Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Abbas Araqchi elaborated on the Iranian administration’s position on the future of the nuclear agreement, which has been in crisis since the US’s unilateral withdrawal less than three years ago.

Araqchi said in order for Iran to resume its commitments under the multilateral agreement, the White House must lift the sanctions that the administration of ex-president Donald Trump placed on Iran, including those stipulated in the deal and the bans imposed on the country under new pretexts.

“The US must remove the sanctions in full, not [merely] in words or on paper, but in practice,” Araqchi told khamenei.ir. “We will verify that, and whenever we feel the sanctions are lifted in a proper manner, we will, for our part, return to our commitments” under the agreement, formally named the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

After pulling the US out of the JCPOA, the Trump administration imposed sweeping sanctions against Iran, mainly aimed at choking off its oil sales and blocking its international banking transactions, in a futile attempt to force Tehran to negotiate a new deal that would also cover its national defense program and its regional activity.

Iran, however, exercised patience in the face of Washington’s exit, waiting for the remaining signatories — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — to act on their contractual obligations and prevent the American bans from affecting international business ties with Tehran.

With the Europeans having failed to do so under Washington’s pressure, Tehran moved exactly a year later to suspend parts of its JCPOA commitments in five phases based on the mechanisms devised in the agreement.

As the Europeans kept failing, Iran’s Parliament eventually intervened in December 2021, adopting a law that requires the administration to suspend even more commitments if the sanctions remain in place by February 21.

The new US administration under President Joe Biden, who was vice president when the JCPOA was inked, has said he would rejoin the deal, but has condition a return to the deal on Tehran’s resumption of full compliance with the agreement.

Araqchi further said “the US’s return to the JCPOA matters to us only when that will lead to the removal of the sanctions,” adding, “This is a completely rational position. What we are currently doing… is a reaction to the measures the US has adopted.”

“The US wanting to rejoin deal without lifting the sanctions [first] would be a non-starter,” said Araqchi, who served a senior nuclear negotiator involved in the negotiations that culminated in the JCPOA.

Commenting on the damages inflicted on Iran by Washington’s exit from the deal, the official said Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure” cost Iran a lot, but Islamic Republic “paid the price and defeated” that campaign.

“The issue of compensation related to the JCPOA will be a serious topic in future negotiations,” Araqchi added.

The official further highlighted Iran’s principle policy of neutralizing the sanctions, as defined by Ayatollah Khamenei, saying the Foreign Ministry is pursuing the removal of the bans, but the country’s economy should reach a point where it will be able to resist any pressure from abroad, including sanctions and international financial crises.

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