Tehran Airs Grievances at JCPOA Meeting

Tehran Airs Grievances at JCPOA MeetingTehran Airs Grievances at JCPOA Meeting

Top diplomats from the seven parties to the 2015 nuclear accord sat down to discuss Iran's grievances about the US antagonistic stance in New York on Wednesday on the sidelines of an annual gathering of world leaders.

This is the second time after the pact's conclusion in July 2015 and the first time during the tenure of US President Donald Trump that Iran and the six power nations, namely Britain, France, Russia, China and the United States, plus Germany, collectively known as P5+1, convene at the ministerial level.

Under the deal, Iran acceded to time-bound restrictions on its nuclear work in exchange for securing relief from international sanctions.

It was meant to settle 12 years of standoff with the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program.

But tensions between the two arch-foes, Tehran and Washington, have reached new heights since January, when Trump replaced Barack Obama, one of the deal's main architects.

He has frequently railed against the nuclear agreement and appears eager to pull Washington out of it, though he has yet to publicly acknowledge that.

Despite the US opposition to the deal, all other partners support the UN-endorsed agreement.

In his address to the UN General Assembly's General Debate in New York on Tuesday, Trump called the deal "an embarrassment" and "one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into".


***Zarif-Tillerson Discussions

The Wednesday ministerial talks that a European source said included a long discussion between the US and Iranian foreign ministers did not help clarify the issues surrounding the deal.

It was the first time that the two men, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Trump's top diplomat, Rex Tillerson, met.

Zarif described the meeting as "unofficial", saying he did not expect concrete decisions to come out of the discussions.

"The meeting was an unofficial one and was unlike the formal sessions of the Joint Commission that must end with a decision," he told reporters, IRNA reported.

EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said all sides believed there had been no violations to the deal but she was unable to say after the roughly hour and 20-minute meeting whether the United States would stick to it, Reuters reported.

Asked if the United States had committed to staying in the pact, she appeared to be at a loss and said, "Another question".

Tillerson told reporters Trump did not wish to leave the Iran nuclear issue to the next president.

"That is the reason he is very, very carefully considering the decision of whether we find the JCPOA to continue to serve the security interests of the American people or not," he said, referring to the pact formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

But Iran's President Hassan Rouhani ruled out a renegotiation of the accord.

"There was some discussion by some people that the nuclear deal isn't very bad but shouldn't stay as it is. [That] it's a deal that's good but we should sit down again and debate to see if it can be improved. If it has flaws, we can fix them," Rouhani said.

"They were told clearly and definitively that the nuclear deal cannot be renegotiated," he told a press conference in Tehran on Thursday broadcast live on state television after his return from the New York event.

***No Renegotiation  

Rouhani was reasserting the position announced by his foreign minister in an interview with New York Times a day earlier.

Zarif rejected any new negotiation with the United States over extending the length or conditions of the action plan, saying that Iran would talk about changing the accord only if every commitment it made—including on its stocks of nuclear fuel—were reconsidered.

He said that would mean Iran would retake possession of the stockpile of nuclear fuel it shipped to Russia when the accord took effect.

"Are you prepared to return to us 10 tons of enriched uranium?" Zarif said of the stockpile Iran agreed to relinquish to comply with a limit set out in the deal that bans any amount of the material in Iran's possession beyond 300 kg and the fissile purity of 3.67%.

Trump must decide by Oct. 15 whether to certify that Iran is complying with the pact, a decision that could sink the deal.

If he does not, the US Congress has 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions waived under the accord.

Trump told reporters he had made a decision on what to do about the agreement, but would not say what he had decided.


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