| 17 April 2024, Wednesday |

Zarif derides Biden admin’s use of Trump-era sanctions as leverage in Vienna talks

As delegations to the Vienna talks return to their capitals for further consultations, Iran’s foreign minister says the Biden administration’s use of Trump-era illegal and inhumane sanctions as leverage in the talks is not acceptable.

Mohammad Javad Zarif made the remarks in a phone conversation with European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, as the two sides discussed the latest developments surrounding the talks that aim to lift the sanctions and bring the US back into full compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, or the JCPOA.

While appreciating efforts made by Borrell and his colleagues at the EU, Zarif denounced the protraction of Washington’s “economic terrorism” under President Joe Biden, who had promised to rejoin the JCPOA and repeal Trump’s maximum pressure policy on Iran.

“A fundamental change in this approach as a prerequisite for the success of the Vienna talks is a political decision that the US president must make,” he added.

Iran and the five remaining parties to the 2015 nuclear agreement, namely Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain, as well as the United States, began efforts early last month to restore the deal that was nixed by former US President Donald Trump. So far, the Biden administration has declined to remove the bans.

In quitting the deal, Trump reimposed sanctions that had been lifted under the agreement and added new ones to force Tehran into negotiating a “better deal” than the JCPOA, which was clinched during the administration of his predecessor Barack Obama.

The fourth round of negotiations in the Austrian capital wrapped up on Wednesday so that the delegations would return to their respective capitals for further consultations. The top diplomats are expected to begin the fifth round in a few days.

Prior to their departure, the chief negotiators noted the “good” progress that was made during the talks, saying an agreement was “within reach”.

Early on Friday, Borrell also said that he spoke with Zarif about the JCPOA. He noted that the delegations in Vienna made good progress in the past weeks.

“All sides now need to take necessary political decisions, so we can conclude negotiations & get back to full implementation,” he wrote in a tweet.

“Crucial for @IAEAorg to continue its verification activities,” Borrell added.

The latest round of talks come while a three-month monitoring deal Iran made with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) comes to an end Friday.

Under the deal, Iran agreed to give diplomacy another chance by keeping the footage recorded at its nuclear sites for three months, after it restricted the IAEA’s access to the sites as part of its reciprocal measures against US sanctions.

Iran has already said the agreement can be extended beyond May 21.

The IAEA said on Thursday that it is still in talks with Iran on how to proceed with the deal, adding that it will provide an update within days.

Also on Thursday, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said the parties in the Vienna talks have agreed to remove all the main sanctions targeting the country’s oil, petrochemical, shipping and insurance sectors as well as the Central Bank of Iran.

“Iran has taken the main big step, and the primary agreement has been reached,” President Rouhani added.