The United States will only return to the Iran nuclear deal once Tehran meets its commitments, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday, warning of a long road ahead until the process is verified.
On his first full day as the top US diplomat, Blinken confirmed President Joe Biden’s willingness to return to the 2015 deal from which his predecessor withdrew, but rejected Iranian pressure for the US to act first.
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“Iran is out of compliance on a number of fronts. And it would take some time, should it make the decision to do so, for it to come back into compliance and time for us then to assess whether it was meeting its obligations,” Blinken told a news conference.
“We’re not there yet, to say the least.”
He declined to say which US official would lead talks with Iran but said “we will bring to bear different perspectives on the issue.”
If Iran returns to the deal, Washington would seek to build what Blinken called a “longer and stronger agreement” that would deal with other “deeply problematic” issues.
He did not name these but Biden has said they include Iran’s development of ballistic missiles and its support for proxy forces in countries such as Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
But Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Thursday dismissed Blinken’s demand.
“Reality check for @SecBlinken: The US violated (the) JCPOA,” Zarif tweeted, referring to the accord by its formal name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Zarif said that as well as its unilateral withdrawal, the US had also imposed sanctions that “blocked food/medicine to Iranians” and “punished adherence” to a UN resolution.
“Now, who should take 1st step? Never forget Trump’s maximum failure,” the foreign minister added, stressing Iran had “abided by the JCPOA” and had only taken “foreseen remedial measures”.
Reality check for @SecBlinken:
-blocked food/medicine to Iranians
-punished adherence to UNSCR 2231
Throughout that sordid mess, Iran
-abided by JCPOA
-only took foreseen remedial measures
Now, who should take 1st step?
Never forget Trump’s maximum failure.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 28, 2021
Former US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from JCPOA and imposed crippling sanctions on Iran in 2018, maintaining a policy of “maximum pressure” against the republic.
Iran a year later responded by suspending its compliance with most key nuclear commitments in the deal, under which it was promised economic relief for limits on its nuclear programme.
On January 4, Iran announced it had stepped up its uranium enrichment process to 20 percent purity, far above the 3.67 percent level permitted by the deal, but far below the amount required for an atomic bomb.
Tehran has called on Washington to “unconditionally” lift sanctions imposed by Trump to salvage the nuclear deal.
It has said it will return to full compliance once all parties to the accord fullfil their commitments to the agreement.