Iran said it has told the United States that it will only consider returning to nuclear talks if the State Department releases $10 billion of Tehran’s frozen funds as a sign of goodwill, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Saturday.
“The Americans tried to contact us through different channels [at the UN General Assembly] in New York, and I told the mediators if America’s intentions are serious then a serious indication was needed… by releasing at least $10 billion of blocked money,” Amirabdollahian told Iranian state TV, according to quotes carried by Reuters.
“They are not willing to free $10 billion belonging to the Iranian nation so that we can say that the Americans once in the past several decades considered the interests of the Iranian nation,” Amirabdollahian said.
Iran says tens of billions of dollars of its assets are held in foreign banks due to US sanctions.
Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken renewed warnings that time was running out for Iran to return to a nuclear deal, saying it was up to Tehran to act.
“The ball remains in their court, but not for long,” Blinken told reporters on Friday.
“There is a limited runway on that, and the runway is getting shorter,” he said.
Blinken reiterated that US President Joe Biden was willing to return the United States to a 2015 accord in which Iran drastically scaled back nuclear work in return for promises of economic relief.
Former US president Donald Trump withdrew from the deal known formally as the JCPOA and reimposed sweeping sanctions, which Iran wants removed before it undoes a series of noncompliant steps that it took. Iran says all the steps are reversible.
“Simply getting back to the terms of the JCPOA at some point will not be sufficient to recapture the benefits of the agreement because of the progress Iran has made,” Blinken said.
Blinken said that the Biden administration has been engaged “in very good faith for many months” in indirect talks in Vienna with Iran on returning to compliance.
Iran requested a break in talks in June due to a political transition as the ultra-conservative Ebrahim Raisi became president, replacing Hassan Rouhani who entered the nuclear deal and favored better relations with the West.
No date has been set for talks to resume, although Raisi has said that he backs diplomacy to end sanctions and Amirabdollahian has said it will be “soon.”