Iran will insist all Western-imposed sanctions be lifted as a precondition to reaching a nuclear arms deal, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Wednesday, ahead of a fresh round of talks with major powers set to begin Thursday.
“This is what the government has insisted on from the very beginning,” Zarif was quoted as saying by Iranian news agency IRNA, on the sidelines of the funeral of the mother of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Zarif reaffirmed remarks made by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last week, who said that any nuclear deal must include the immediate lifting of sanctions, a condition that according to negotiators involved and experts has become a major sticking point during the talks.
According to a European negotiator, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is putting “a lot of pressure” on his team to get “insulting” UN sanctions lifted “on day one” of any deal.
“They (the Iranians) say it is a deal breaker,” the negotiator said in Lausanne during last week’s round of talks.
After the Islamic Revolution, the US began in the 1980s imposing sanctions on Iran over human rights abuses and support for terrorism.
The United Nations became involved after concerns emerged in 2002-3 that Iran might be seeking nuclear weapons — something Tehran denies — and began imposing sanctions on 2006. These are focused primarily on preventing Iran getting hold of materials and technologies that might be used in its nuclear and missile programs.
From 2010 unilateral sanctions from the US, European Union and others began strangling its oil exports and cutting its banks off from the global financial system.
Western officials say that they are only prepared to suspend — but not terminate — some of these EU and US measures in a phased manner if Iran agrees to shrink its nuclear program.
Negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group – the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – are set to resume Thursday, with negotiators hoping to reach a landmark political deal by March 31, ahead of the June deadline for a comprehensive agreement.