Talks will only restart after reviews of 'nuclear file' done

Iran’s FM apparently walks back comment that nuke talks will restart very soon

Day after accusing US of sending ‘contradictory messages,’ Hossein Amir-Abdollahian says ‘the difference between Iranian and Western “soon” is a lot’

Hossein Amir Abdollahian listens to question during his news conference in Moscow, Russia, Sept. 10, 2013 (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Hossein Amir Abdollahian listens to question during his news conference in Moscow, Russia, Sept. 10, 2013 (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Iran’s foreign minister on Saturday seemed to backtrack from comments he made a day earlier when he stated that stalled talks on the Iranian nuclear accord would resume “very soon,” now saying instead that the West and Tehran have a different concept of the timeframe.

“People keep asking how soon is soon. Does it mean days, weeks or months?” said Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, in remarks broadcast on state TV channel IRINN, cited by the Reuters news agency.

“The difference between Iranian and Western ‘soon’ is a lot. To us, ‘soon’ means really in the first opportune time – when our reviews [of the nuclear file] have been completed. What is important is our determination to return to the talks, but those that are serious and guarantee the Iranian nation’s rights and interests,” Amir-Abdollahian said.

To reinforce his point, made in an interview on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Amir-Abdollahian said: “I remind you of the West’s promises, such as repeatedly promising they would ‘soon,’ ‘in a few months,’ implement the Instex.” The minister was referring to the financing mechanism set up to get round US sanctions.

A day earlier, Amir-Abdollahian had accused the United States of sending “contradictory messages” on reviving the deal.

The nuclear talks, brokered by the Europeans, seek the return of the United States to the 2015 agreement trashed by former president Donald Trump — as well as Iran’s return to full compliance.

In this Aug. 16, 2005 file photo, Iranian women form a human chain, at the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility, in support of Iran’s nuclear program, just outside the city of Isfahan, Iran, 410 kilometers (255 miles) south of the capital Tehran (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

On Thursday, Amir-Abdollahian told the New York Times that Iran will not agree to a “so-called ‘longer and stronger’ deal.” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said earlier this month that Israel would accept some other longer, broader and stronger nuclear agreement.

Amir-Abdollahian explained that the agreement in 2015 “has a lot of harsh critics in Iran,” but despite that, “we accepted it.”

According to the newspaper: “Experts estimate that Iran could produce bomb-grade uranium in a month or two, but that it would take 18 months or more to fashion it into a working weapon — plenty of time for the United States, Israel and others to respond. But with each passing month, Iran has expanded its stockpile, and its knowledge, about how to enrich uranium, at scale, to a level that would make it a so-called threshold nuclear power — on the verge of possessing a nuclear weapon, but not quite over that line.”

When asked by reporters to explain why Iran was for the first time, producing fuel enriched to a level that is close to weapons-grade, Amir-Abdollahian declined to answer, the newspaper said.

A day later, Amir-Abdollahian told reporters that “we are reviewing the Vienna negotiations files currently and very soon Iran’s negotiations with the four plus one countries will recommence,” referring to Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany.

“We see a constructive type of negotiation that will lead to tangible verifiable results in the foreign policy of the new government in Iran,” the foreign minister added during a press conference on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

European nations are trying to kick start the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, that Trump pulled America out of in 2018. He reinstated sanctions on Iran that Washington had lifted as part of the agreement.

Since then, Tehran has also increasingly retreated from many of its commitments.

Trump’s successor Joe Biden has indicated he wants to return to the deal, but his administration has expressed impatience at the stalled talks.

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