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Iranian official: We may leave nuclear deal if banks don’t come to Iran

Facing uncertainty over proliferation of sanctions against Islamic Republic, many financial institutions still won’t back investments in the country

Iran's deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi addresses the United Nations Security Council during a meeting on Iraq on September 19, 2014 at UN headquarters in New York City. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images/AFP)
Iran's deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi addresses the United Nations Security Council during a meeting on Iraq on September 19, 2014 at UN headquarters in New York City. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images/AFP)

A senior Iranian official said Thursday that Tehran may choose to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal it struck with six world powers if major international banks continued to avoid doing business in the Islamic Republic.

While the deal largely ended nuclear-related sanctions on Tehran, other sanctions, including those targeting its support for terror groups like Hezbollah and its ballistic missile program, continue despite the deal. Many banks are worried that doing business in Iran could cost them dearly, especially in the United States, if western officials determine their business ties contradict the requirements of existing sanctions.

Speaking at the Chatham House think tank in London, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said the deal cannot “survive this way,” according to a Reuters report on his comments.

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly called for the scrapping or amending of the nuclear deal, and said if some key issues were not addressed — including lack of international inspections of Iran’s military nuclear sites, as well as the lifting of some nuclear restrictions after 2025 — the US might withdraw entirely and reimpose the sanctions lifted under the deal.

But even if that does not happen, Araghchi said, “the deal would not survive this way.”

“If the same policy of confusion and uncertainties about the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) continues, if companies and banks are not working with Iran, we cannot remain in a deal that has no benefit for us,” Araghchi added, according to Reuters. “That’s a fact.”

Araghchi also rejected the US and Israeli view that the deal ceases to restrict Iran’s nuclear behavior down the road. “There is no sunset clause in the JCPOA. Although the US administration and Trump are talking about [a] ‘sunset clause’ and that JCPOA is just for 10 years, that is not true,” he insisted. “Iran’s commitment in the JCPOA not to go for nuclear weapons is permanent.”

Araghchi rejected Trump’s demand to address other issues as part of the continued operation of the nuclear deal, including the country’s burgeoning ballistic missile program.

Such a linkage would mean that the countries that negotiated the JCPOA “not only will lose the JCPOA, but will make other issues more complicated and more difficult to resolve. If we lose the JCPOA, we will face another nuclear crisis,” he warned.

“For the Europeans or the world community, when we talk about maintaining the JCPOA and saving it, it’s not a choice between the Iranian or the US market, it’s not a choice for economic cooperation: it’s a choice between having security or insecurity,” he added.

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