Iran demands unfettered access to oil revenue as Vienna nuclear talks resume

Foreign minister says Tehran wants to ‘enjoy full economic concessions’ from talks, as tensions with Israel escalate

Palais Coburg, where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, on December 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Gruber, File)
Palais Coburg, where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, on December 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Gruber, File)

Iran demanded on Monday that the United States and its allies promise to allow it to export its crude oil as negotiations on restoring the tattered nuclear deal were to resume in Vienna.

The remarks by Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian signal that Iran is pressing its position ahead of the negotiations over reviving the landmark 2015 nuclear deal. The talks were adjourned earlier this month after a round marked by tensions over new demands from Tehran.

Speaking to reporters in Tehran, Amirabdollahian said Iran wants the upcoming round of talks to focus on achieving the “point where Iranian oil is being sold easily and without any barriers and its money arrives in Iran’s bank accounts.”

The resumption of talks come as tensions have escalated recently between Iran and Israel. On Friday, Iran fired multiple ballistic missiles at the close of five days of military drills, which generals said were a warning to Israel. The drills included a mock strike on an Israeli nuclear facility.

The US negotiator had previously warned of a “period of escalating crisis” if diplomacy failed to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The landmark accord granted Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. But in 2018, then-US president Donald Trump withdrew America from the deal and imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran, including against its oil sector — the lifeline of its economy. Iran’s crude exports plummeted and international oil companies scrapped deals with Tehran, weakening its economy.

Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Mariano Grossi, left, and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian meet, in Tehran, Iran, November 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

As the parties to the 2015 atomic deal prepared to convene in Vienna, Amirabdollahian said Iran wanted to “be able to enjoy full economic concessions under the nuclear deal.”

“Guarantee and verification (of the removal of sanctions) are among topics that we have focused on,” he said.

The new, conservative administration of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has repeatedly demanded the removal of all economic sanctions before Iran reins in its nuclear advances.

Israel has been uneasy with the resuming of talks, with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid saying in an interview published Thursday that Israel would prefer that the US and other powers walk away from nuclear talks rather than pursue a “bad deal.”

Iran has steadily abandoned all of the accord’s limits since the American withdrawal and is now enriching uranium to 60 percent purity — a short, technical step from weapons-grade levels. It spins ever-more advanced centrifuges also barred by the deal.

Iran insists that its nuclear program is peaceful. But the country’s significant nuclear steps have alarmed regional rivals and world powers. Diplomats have warned that time is running out to restore the deal as Iran maintains a hard line in putting the onus on the US to lift sanctions.

The talks involve all the parties to the original nuclear deal — Iran, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. Iran refuses to talk directly to American envoy, who is engaging through the other signatories.

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