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Grasp window of opportunity


The path traveled during six rounds of intensive negotiations in Vienna did not lead to success due to the US excessive demands and unrealistic stance. Now after a gap of over five months, we have started a new round of talks. The main goal of these negotiations is the restoration of the rights of the Iranian nation and removal of all the sanctions imposed unilaterally and extraterritorially on Iran by the United States, which is no longer a party to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The US pulled out of the JCPOA on May 8, 2018--a move perceived and condemned internationally as unlawful. There is an international consensus that the US' unlawful behavior demonstrated its total contempt for international law and the United Nations Charter, undermined multilateralism and posed an enormous risk to international peace and security.

Despite a new government taking office in the US, not only have the illegal and unilateral sanctions implemented by its predecessor remained in place, but the policy of imposing sanctions on Iran has continued. It is crystal clear that such US measures are aimed at preventing Iran and other JCPOA participants as well as other members of the international community from enjoying the rights and benefits described in the nuclear deal and the UN Security Council Resolution 2231.Regrettably, too, the governments of the three European parties to the JCPOA--the United Kingdom, France and Germany--despite considering the US approach to be illegal and unacceptable, have accommodated it in practice with their silence and inaction. The alignment of the three European countries with such devastating US measures has rendered the nuclear deal ineffective, eliminating all the economic dividends of the deal for Iran. These are the bitter realities of the past several years which should illuminate the way forward.

Continuing the disastrous approach of the previous Donald Trump administration, the present US administration has raised the serious question of whether or not it is truly determined to implement the US' obligations and prepared to abandon the failed policies of the past. Answering this question does not appear difficult considering the US approach and measures during the past months.

No one can question Iran's seriousness and goodwill in fulfilling its obligations in their entirety. After the unlawful US withdrawal and the imposition of sanctions, Iran refrained from taking remedial measures in good faith, and, granting the request of the remaining JCPOA participants and the European Union as the coordinator of the nuclear deal, avoided resorting to the cessation of its commitments under the JCPOA so as to provide the opportunity for the other JCPOA participants to compensate for the negative impacts of the US withdrawal. However, given the persistence of this unconstructive state of affairs and after one year of strategic patience, due to the escalation of US sanctions, and non-performance of the obligations of the three European countries, Iran has been left with no choice but to enforce its rights as set forth in paragraphs 26 and 36 of the JCPOA and cease, partially and in stages, performing its obligations as of May 8, 2019.

Witnessing no change in the status quo, in the absence of any effective measure by the relevant JCPOA participants, and given the regrettable history of developments, the parliament of Iran adopted as law a strategic action plan to lift sanctions and protect the interests of the Iranian nation on Dec 2,2020. This law obligates the government of Iran to gradually cease the implementation of all its voluntary commitments under the JCPOA unless other parties to the deal fulfill their entire obligations in practice.

Iran, in spite of the significant non-performance by the West in the JCPOA, is once again ready, to participate in good faith in result-oriented negotiations to achieve a "good deal" with the P4+1. Iran has the sincerity, resolve and the necessary will to reach a good deal in Vienna.

In this process, it should never be forgotten that the US is the main culprit behind the creation of the status quo. Over the past four years, the government of the US has spared no effort to crush the nuclear deal, and it was Iran that has done all it can to keep the deal alive. What became evident to Iran during the past six rounds of negotiations is that the US still fails to properly understand the fact that after the US withdrawal from the JCPOA, there is no way to return to it without verifiable and effective lifting of all sanctions imposed on the Iranian nation.

The UN Security Council Resolution 2231 calls upon all the member states to "take such actions as may be appropriate to support the implementation of the JCPOA, including by taking actions commensurate with the implementation plan set out in the JCPOA and this resolution and by refraining from taking any actions that undermine the implementation of commitments under the JCPOA".

The main objective of the upcoming talks should be the full and effective implementation of the JCPOA and the pursuit of the goal of normalization of trade relations and economic cooperation with Iran. It goes without saying that in order to return to the JCPOA, Iran should benefit fully from the lifting of all the sanctions. Iran is prepared to cease the application of all its remedial measures if guarantees are provided, damages assessed, and all sanctions effectively and verifiably lifted.

Of course, the return of the US to the nuclear deal would not be meaningful unless guarantees are in place to prevent the recurrence of the bitter experience of the past and Iran's trade partners can confidently enter into long-term economic engagement with Iran free from any concern.

What is clear in the forthcoming negotiations is that Iran will not accept requests beyond the JCPOA, and will not enter into any discussion whatsoever about issues beyond the nuclear deal.

I would like to emphasize once again that this opportunity is not a window that will remain open forever and the US and the three European countries must understand this. While making determined, strong and active diplomatic efforts to remove the oppressive US sanctions, Iran has devised an effective program to neutralize the sanctions in line with its sustainable economic development program.

Without doubt, Teheran remains as committed to maintaining and safeguarding the achievements of its nuclear scientists and peaceful nuclear industry as it remains obliged to non-diversion from its peaceful nuclear program, and will not abandon its comprehensive development in industry, trade, maritime, space, defense, science, and technology sectors, nor will it curtail its economic development.

A deal is possible if other parties demonstrate political will in practice.

Despite the unfulfilled promises of the West and its distrust of the unconstructive approach and policies of the White House, Iran will endeavor with true determination and in good faith to achieve a good, sustainable and effective, verifiable deal for the lifting of sanctions in the Vienna negotiations. The nuclear negotiating team of Iran will engage actively and earnestly in the Vienna negotiations in good faith, pursuing a negotiation logic which secures the interests and rights of the Iranian nation. My colleagues and I fully support the negotiating team as well as the chief negotiator, Baqeri Kani, who has extensive experience of negotiation in the field. I will engage in further consultation with my counterparts if necessary.

The author is Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

Contact the editor at editor@chinawatch.cn