Kerry, Zarif plan meet to iron out nuke deal ruffles

Top diplomats to discuss Iranian complaints over slow pace of sanctions relief in New York; White House tells states of changes to penalty regime

Then-US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) speaks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Vienna, Austria, on January 16, 2016. (AFP/Kevin Lamarque/Pool)
Then-US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) speaks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Vienna, Austria, on January 16, 2016. (AFP/Kevin Lamarque/Pool)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Iran’s foreign minister this week amid Iranian complaints that it’s not getting the sanctions relief it deserves under last year’s landmark nuclear deal, the State Department said Monday.

Kerry and Mohammad Javad Zarif will meet in New York on Tuesday before Kerry flies to Saudi Arabia to join President Barack Obama at a summit with Gulf Arab leaders, department spokesman John Kirby said.

Meanwhile, Kirby said the department had sent letters to US state and local officials advising them of changes to federal sanctions policy.

The Kerry-Zarif meeting follows complaints from top Iranian leaders that the US is not fulfilling its part of the nuclear agreement, in which Iran curbed its atomic program in exchange for sanctions relief. The US insists it has met its obligations but is facing demands from foreign banks to make clear what transactions with Iran are legal and which are still punishable under remaining sanctions.

“We’re obviously aware of these concerns that they have expressed about the status of sanctions relief,” Kirby said. “And the secretary is very mindful that that topic will come up tomorrow, that that is very much on Foreign Minister Zarif’s mind.”

He declined to say whether Kerry would provide Zarif with any notice of action the administration might take in regard to sanctions relief.

Over the weekend, Zarif said he would ask the United States to ease restrictions on non-American banks doing business with the Islamic Republic, saying it would help reassure Iranians over the nuclear deal.

“Iran will definitely put pressure on the United States to pave the way for the cooperation of non-American banks with Iran,” he said on Saturday at a Tehran news conference with visiting EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. “The other party, particularly the United States, is required to implement its commitments in banking cooperation”

A day earlier, the head of Iran’s central bank, Valiollah Seif had accused the US and the European Union of failing to honor the nuclear agreement by keeping Iran locked out of the international financial system.

The White House, Treasury and the State Department have all said the US has done what is required of it. Yet, officials say the administration has been toying with the idea of easing or formally clarifying financial restrictions that prevent US dollars from being used in transactions that enable business with Iran.

Administration officials have ruled out granting Iran access to the US financial system or direct access to the dollar but have left the door open to other steps to encourage trade that is now legal under the nuclear deal.

That has met fierce resistance from lawmakers who believe that Tehran would be getting more than it deserves.

On Monday, House Speaker Paul Ryan renewed his opposition to any easing of the current rules.

“The administration should definitively rule out any potential workaround that provides Iran — directly or indirectly — with access to the dollar or the US financial system,” he said in a statement.

“Instead of helping the regime get richer, the administration should hold it accountable for its continued ballistic missile tests, egregious human rights violations, and support for terrorism. We will continue to oppose any efforts to grant further concessions to the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism,” Ryan said.

In a related matter, the State Department said it had sent letters to governors of all 50 US states and some localities informing them of changes made to federal sanctions as a result of the nuclear deal. Some states and municipalities have enacted local sanctions against Iran.

Kirby said the letter, which was first reported by Bloomberg View, “calls their attention to some of the changes now to our sanctions posture as a result of (the agreement) and encourages them to consider that as they enact local laws for their jurisdiction.”

He said the letter does not require state and local officials to take any action and doesn’t order them to change existing laws and regulations.

A second official said the administration was not aware of any state or local law that would violate the terms of the nuclear deal and that the letter was sent mainly in response to questions that had been posed.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press

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