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Iran says it won’t negotiate forever, but believes nuclear deal can be saved

Tehran Foreign Ministry spokesman says return to 2015 accord is possible ‘if the US abandons Trump’s failed legacy’

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh during a press conference in Tehran, on February 22, 2021. (Atta Kenare/AFP)
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh during a press conference in Tehran, on February 22, 2021. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

Iran on Saturday said it would not negotiate forever with the United States over the return to the 2015 nuclear deal, but still believes a reinstatement of the agreement is possible.

“Out of a steadfast commitment to salvage a deal that the US tried to torpedo, Iran has been the most active party in Vienna, proposing most drafts,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh tweeted on Saturday, referring to the ongoing talks aimed at reviving the deal.

“Still believe a deal is possible, if the US decides to abandon Trump’s failed legacy,” he added, warning that “Iran will not negotiate forever.”

The 2015 deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) saw Iran accept curbs on its nuclear activities, in return for an easing of sanctions.

But in 2018, then-US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned the agreement and ramped up sanctions, prompting Iran to increasingly pull back from its own commitments.

US President Joe Biden has signaled his readiness to return to the deal, and state parties — including Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — have been negotiating its potential revival in Vienna since early April.

Iran’s Governor to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Kazem Gharib Abadi, Political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran Abbas Araghchi, and Deputy Secretary General and Political Director of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Enrique Mora, stand in front of the ‚Grand Hotel Vienna’ where where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, on June 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)

Also Saturday, the US was said to be considering lifting sanctions on Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in an attempt to revive the deal.

On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff said the US would lift some 1,040 sanctions implemented during the Trump era on vital Iranian economy sectors such as oil and shipping, as well as remove several senior officials from its blacklists.

Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, an ultraconservative cleric seen as close to Khamenei, said on Monday he would not allow the nuclear negotiations to drag on.

Iran’s new President-elect Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a press conference in Tehran, Iran, on June 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

A day earlier, European Union negotiator Enrique Mora said that those involved in the talks were “closer” to saving the Iran nuclear deal, but that sticking points remain.

Iran’s envoy to the Vienna talks, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, said that “at this point, it is clear which fields, which actions, are possible and which are not. Therefore, it is time for all sides, especially our counterparts, to be able to make their final decision.”

Araghchi added that “bridging the gaps requires decisions that mainly [the US] has to take. I hope in the next round we will travel this short distance — although it is a difficult one.”

Israel has always opposed the nuclear agreement, which it says could enable the Islamic Republic to develop nuclear arms.

A change in Israel’s government just over a week ago — which saw long-serving prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu ousted from office — has not changed the country’s policy on the matter. In a speech just before being sworn in as premier, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett expressed staunch opposition to an American return to the deal.

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