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Iranian president rules out bilateral talks with US

Hassan Rouhani (Nastaran Dadjou/WikiCommons)
September 03, 2019

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iran’s President Hassan Rohani has ruled out bilateral talks with the United States, though the removal of sanctions against it would allow for multilateral talks including those who signed a nuclear accord in 2015.

Speaking at an open session of parliament on September 3, Rohani also said Iran was ready to further reduce its commitments to the 2015 deal “in the coming days” if current negotiations fail to yield any results.

“No decision has ever been taken to hold talks with the U.S. and there has been a lot of offers for talks but our answer will always be negative,” Rohani said.

He added that if the United States lifts the sanctions, “it would still be possible to attend sessions” of the so-called P5 + 1 talks between Tehran and the five UN Security Council permanent members.

U.S. President Donald Trump has offered to meet Iranian leaders for talks amid Washington’s campaign of “maximum pressure” on Tehran.

Iranian officials have repeatedly said that sanctions must be removed before any talks can take place.

Rohani said that European countries are failing to implement their commitments following the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal and the reimposition of crippling sanctions.

Last-Minute Talks

His comments come as Iranian diplomats in France held last-minute talks on September 2 aimed at salvaging the agreement.

Speaking in Paris on September 3, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the talks focused on a possible guaranteed credit line for Tehran in exchange for oil, conditioned on Iran’s full compliance with the 2015 deal.

Tehran would also have to commit to easing geopolitical tensions in the Persian Gulf region and participate in Middle East talks on improving regional security, Le Drian told journalists, adding: “All this [pre]supposes that President Trump issues waivers.”

At a Group of Seven (G7) summit in France last month, France’s President Emmanuel Macron “sensed that President Trump was open to softening the strategy of maximum pressure, to find a path that could allow a deal to be reached,” according to the French minister.

But Le Drian cautioned that several issues were still hindering efforts to salvage the nuclear agreement.

“There is still lots to work out. It’s still very fragile,” he said.

Iran on September 2 threatened to “take a strong step” away from the deal if Europe cannot offer new terms by a deadline at the end of this week.

Iranian leaders say they remain committed to the accord but demand that the Western European parties to the accord — Britain, France, and Germany — take measures to help the country bypass U.S. sanctions and benefit from the deal economically.

Meanwhile, Tehran has begun exceeding limits placed as part of the accord, putting the agreement in danger of collapsing.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said that Iran will go back to complying with the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in full only when European nations go back to delivering on their commitments.

Zarif made the remarks in Moscow on September 2 following talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, who welcomed a French initiative to save the nuclear deal.

“We are hoping that this useful initiative of the French president will bear fruit,” Lavrov told reporters.

Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said on September 2 that Tehran’s views have been converging with those of France on ways to save the deal.