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Iran’s Raisi tells Putin: Tehran is ‘absolutely serious’ about nuclear talks

US State Department says it is ‘comparing notes’ with Israel and Gulf allies ahead of the resumption of negotiations in Vienna later this month

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addresses the parliament in Tehran on November 16, 2021. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addresses the parliament in Tehran on November 16, 2021. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)

TEHRAN — Iran is “absolutely serious” about nuclear talks expected to resume late this month, its President Ebrahim Raisi told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Tuesday.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran is absolutely serious about the negotiations and we are equally serious about our people’s rights to have sanctions lifted,” Raisi said, according to a statement published on the presidency’s website.

His remarks come one day after Tehran invited the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, to visit and meet Iran’s foreign minister, after the UN official expressed concern over lack of contact with Iranian officials.

Nuclear talks, which have been on hold since Raisi’s election in June, are set to resume in Vienna on November 29 in a bid to revive the 2015 deal that offered Tehran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear activity.

The deal was torpedoed when the US unilaterally pulled out of it in 2018 under the administration of president Donald Trump.

The other parties to the deal — Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France — will participate in the Vienna talks in the presence of European negotiator Enrique Mora. The US will take part in the negotiations indirectly.

According to a Kremlin statement, Putin expressed hopes “that the talks scheduled for late November will be constructive.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian called on the West not to make “excessive demands” on Tehran in the talks, in a call with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov earlier this month.

Robert Malley, US special envoy for Iran (R) and Stephan Klement, EU ambassador and European external action service special advisor on Iran, talk in front of the Hotel Imperial near the Grand Hotel Vienna where closed-door nuclear talks took place in Vienna, Austria, June 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Florian Schroetter)

US Special Envoy on Iran Robert Malley is on a tour of several Mideast countries ahead of the restart of talks, and landed in Israel on Monday.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid reportedly told Malley that Iran is simply working to buy time by dragging out negotiations, and that it has no real intention of rejoining the nuclear deal. Malley also met with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Mossad chief David Barnea. He is also stopping in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in the coming days.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Monday that Malley was consulting closely with Israeli officials about the talks.

“We have made a point of saying when it comes to our Israeli partners, when it comes to our Gulf partners, that we have regularly — during the course of the previous six rounds of indirect negotiations in Vienna have regularly briefed them on the course of those discussions,” Price said during a press briefing in Washington. “And as we prepare for the resumption of those talks, the seventh round in Vienna, this is an opportunity to compare notes and to prepare for that seventh round.”

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