US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has told the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva that the United States seeks to "lengthen and strengthen" the agreement between world powers and Iran on its nuclear programme, and aims to tackle the Islamic Republic’s "destabilising regional behaviour and ballistic missile development".
Iran must comply with safeguard agreements made over the weekend with the UN nuclear watchdog IAEA, and its international obligations, Blinken separately stressed, adding that the US remains committed to ensuring Iran never acquires nuclear weapons. He added that he sees diplomacy as the best possible path to achieve this goal.
President Joe Biden declared on Thursday that the US is set to sit down for “informal” talks with the Iranians, which would be hosted by the EU and attended by the UK, Russia, and China, as Tehran has demanded relief from the harsh Trump-imposed sanctions. The easing of the sanctions would thus come as a price for talks to resume.
However, the United States' return to the Iran deal would be pointless were Washington not to lift all the sanctions it has slapped on Tehran first, Iranian officials warned.
“We cannot simply settle for the signature on a letter. If the signature is not accompanied by a process for verifying the actions, it would be pointless,” Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Majid Takht-Ravanchi said in a recent sit-down with Khamenei.ir, as cited by Press TV.
There are, meanwhile, indications that sanctions will be reversed, although the administration insists that diplomatic negotiations should be held first.
“Sanctions relief is definitely coming”, one well-placed national security source told the Sunday Times, remarking: “Not today or tomorrow. But it is coming”.
The United States previously noted that Tehran must return to full compliance with the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal before Washington can restore its membership, and urged the Islamic Republic to reduce its uranium enrichment activities.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded that his country is not trying to create nuclear weapons, stressing that Tehran's steps on the JCPOA, taken after the US withdrawal, are reversible. He thereby referred to Iran slowly moving to turn a blind eye in recent months to its commitments under the landmark accord after the US' withdrawal and the "inability" of other - European - partners under the deal to do anything about it.
“Instead of sophistry & putting [the] onus on Iran, E3/EU must abide by [their] own commitments and demand an end to Trump's legacy of #EconomicTerrorism against Iran. Our remedial measures are a response to US/E3 violations. Remove the cause if you fear the effect,” Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted earlier in February.
Iran signed the JCPOA in 2015 with the UN Security Council's five permanent members (of which one is the US) and a number of EU countries. The accord stipulated that Iran curb its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief, including lifting the arms embargo five years after the deal took force. However, the Trump administration withdrew from the deal and reinstated sanctions against the Islamic Republic under his so-called "maximum pressure" policy, forcing Tehran gradually to suspend its obligations under the accord.
In December, Iran stepped up its research in the wake of the assassination of nuclear physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. The country's parliament adopted a new law, allowing an increase in its uranium enrichment and stipulating that there will be no UN inspections of its nuclear sites. In early January, Iran's atomic energy organisation boasted about the country's success in enriching uranium to 20 percent at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant.