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UN chief calls on Washington to lift all Iran sanctions outlined in 2015 deal

Antonio Guterres wants Biden to remove limitations on Tehran in order to ease its return to the accord

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attends a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov following the talks in Moscow, Russia, May 12, 2021. (Maxim Shemetov, Pool via AP)
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attends a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov following the talks in Moscow, Russia, May 12, 2021. (Maxim Shemetov, Pool via AP)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has asked US President Joe Biden to lift all sanctions on Iran as outlined in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

In a biannual report to the UN Security Council on the Iran nuclear deal, Guterres urged the United States to “extend the waivers with regard to the trade in oil with the Islamic Republic of Iran, and fully renew waivers for nuclear non-proliferation projects,” according to Reuters.

“I appeal to the United States to lift or waive its sanctions outlined in the plan,” wrote Guterres, who also appealed to Iran to return to full implementation of the deal.

“I continue to believe that a full restoration of the plan remains the best way to ensure that the nuclear program of the Islamic Republic of Iran remains exclusively peaceful,” he said.

The 2015 deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) saw Iran accept curbs on its nuclear activities, in return for an easing of sanctions.

But in 2018, then-US president Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned the agreement and ramped up sanctions, prompting Iran to increasingly pull back from its own commitments.

US President Donald Trump signs with US Vice President Mike Pence(R) and US Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin at the White House on June 24, 2019, ‘hard-hitting sanctions’ on Iran’s supreme leader. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

Trump’s successor Joe Biden has signaled his readiness to return to the deal, and state parties — including Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — have been negotiating its potential revival in Vienna since early April.

Last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff said the US would lift some 1,040 sanctions implemented during the Trump era on vital Iranian economy sectors such as oil and shipping, as well as remove several senior officials from its blacklists. Officials who would have sanctions removed included several figures from Khamenei’s inner circle, he said.

The US denied agreeing to do so.

NBC News reported earlier this week that the US is considering lifting sanctions on Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Sources with knowledge of the matter told the network that the move was brought up during indirect nuclear talks between the US and Iran in Vienna, as part of a series of potential compromises by Washington to get Tehran to return to the 2015 deal with full compliance.

Meanwhile, Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, an ultraconservative cleric seen as close to Khamenei, said last week he would not allow the nuclear negotiations to drag on.

Iran’s new President-elect Ebrahim Raisi waves to participants at the conclusion of his press conference in Tehran, Iran, June 21, 2021. (Vahid Salemi/AP)

Iran’s envoy to the Vienna talks, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, said that “at this point, it is clear which fields, which actions, are possible and which are not. Therefore, it is time for all sides, especially our counterparts, to be able to make their final decision.”

Araghchi added that “bridging the gaps requires decisions that mainly [the US] has to take. I hope in the next round we will travel this short distance — although it is a difficult one.”

Israel has always opposed the nuclear agreement, which it says could enable the Islamic Republic to develop nuclear arms.

A change in Israel’s government earlier this month — which saw long-serving prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu ousted from office — has not changed the country’s policy on the matter. In a speech just before being sworn in as premier, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett expressed staunch opposition to an American return to the deal.

However, the new government is seeking quiet constructive dialogue with Washington on the matter.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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