Japan Expected Not to Follow Illegal Sanctions

Japan Expected Not to Follow Illegal Sanctions
Japan Expected Not to Follow Illegal Sanctions

Iran’s foreign minister said he hopes Japan will push for the lifting of economic sanctions imposed on Tehran by former US president Donald Trump.  

Mohammad Javad Zarif’s remarks in an interview with Kyodo News come as the administration of new US President Joe Biden has suggested that it intends to return to the 2015 nuclear deal and resume dialogue with Iran.

Calling Japan an old friend of Iran and noting its good relations with the United States, he said, “We expect Japan to act as a friend, particularly when it comes to international law,” underlining that sanctions reimposed after Washington left the landmark nuclear deal in 2018 are illegal.

“Since the United States is violating international law, the best role that Japan can play is to show Americans that Japan will not implement their illegal decisions,” he said.

Zarif specifically called on Japan to unfreeze Iranian assets frozen in Japanese banks due to US sanctions, as a gesture to Iran by the new government of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who came to power last September.

According to Zarif, frozen assets in Japan and South Korea total close to $10 billion. Japan’s share, mainly revenue from crude oil exports to Japan, is estimated to be just under $3 billion.

He said the unfrozen funds could be used to procure medicines and food, including vaccines for the novel coronavirus.



EU Role 

On the role of the European Union, Zarif said EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, is responsible for sequencing a restoration of compliance with the nuclear accord by Washington and Tehran.

But the foreign minister ruled out direct negotiations with the Biden administration to that end.

“Mr. Borrell can specify the timeframe in consultation with Iran and the United States. It is clear the United States has to take steps first,” Zarif said.

“When Washington takes its steps, and we see the outcome, we can immediately take [steps] ourselves, and it is up to Borrell to choreograph these steps,” he said.

With the inauguration of the Biden administration on Jan. 20, expectations have been raised for an improvement of US-Iran relations, which had deteriorated almost to the point of war under Trump. But so far, both sides insist the other act first.

The US side wants Iran, which has been strengthening uranium enrichment in protest to American sanctions, to resume full compliance with the nuclear deal.

It also seeks to lengthen and to strengthen the provisions of that deal, using it in turn as a platform to negotiate follow-on agreements to address such concerns as Iran’s ballistic missile program.

Zarif, however, said the deal cannot be renegotiated.

He warned the window of opportunity to resolve the impasse will soon close as Iran’s parliament has set Feb. 21 as the day to end nuclear watchdog inspections beyond the country’s obligations under its Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“A law has been passed by parliament. That law has to be implemented,” he said while pressing Biden’s team to decide soon whether to return to the nuclear deal with Iran or continue Trump’s legacy by not quickly lifting sanctions.

After that window closes, Zarif said, Iran will produce more enriched uranium and further promote its nuclear development.

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