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France: Iran must comply with nuclear deal before US returns to pact

Russia argues, meanwhile, that Washington should first resume its own compliance, remove sanctions on Tehran

French President Emmanuel Macron (right) with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly at the UN headquarters on September 25, 2018, in New York. (AFP Photo/ludovic Marin)
French President Emmanuel Macron (right) with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly at the UN headquarters on September 25, 2018, in New York. (AFP Photo/ludovic Marin)

France on Tuesday said the Iranian government must comply with the terms of the 2015 accord limiting its nuclear program before the United States returns to the deal. Russia, however, expressed the opposite view and said Washington must first rejoin the treaty and lift sanctions against Tehran.

Former US president Donald Trump withdrew in 2018 from the accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), though his defeat to President Joe Biden has raised the prospect of a US return to the deal.

A French presidency official, on condition of anonymity, said about the Iranians that “if they are serious about negotiations and want to obtain a new commitment from all participants in the JCPOA, first they must refrain from further provocations and second they must respect what they are no longer respecting” in terms of commitments.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, after talks with his Iranian counterpart, that he hoped that “the United States returns to full compliance with the corresponding Security Council resolution, creating conditions for Iran to meet its obligations under the nuclear deal.”

The Iran nuclear deal was agreed in 2015 between Iran, the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany.

It offered sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and guarantees it would not seek an atomic bomb.

The agreement largely fell apart after Trump unilaterally withdrew and ordered officials to reimpose tough penalties against Tehran as part of his administration’s “maximum pressure” policy. Iran has since stepped up enrichment and is just a short technical step away from reaching weapons-grade levels.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Moscow, Russia, on December 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif echoed Russia’s position Tuesday saying that if Washington lifts sanctions on Iran, “we will return to the full implementation of our obligations” under the agreement.

Iran’s Cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei warned Tuesday that the Biden administration will not have an indefinite time period on its disposal to rejoin the deal.
The remarks are part of pressure that Tehran is trying to exert on the US as it seeks to increase its leverage and get the Biden administration to quickly return to the deal.

Washington has suggested it is prepared to rejoin the accord and Biden’s pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said at a Senate confirmation hearing this month that Trump’s policies had made Iran “more dangerous.”

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have steadily increased. During Trump’s final days as president, Tehran seized a South Korean oil tanker and begun enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade levels, while the US has sent B-52 bombers, the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier and a nuclear submarine into the region.

Iran has also increased its military drills, including firing cruise missiles as part of a naval drill in the Gulf of Oman this month.

Iran has missile capability of up to 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles), far enough to reach Israel as well as US military bases in the region. Last January, after the US killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad, Tehran retaliated by firing a barrage of ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases housing US troops, resulting in brain concussion injuries to dozens of American soldiers.

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