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Iran says there have been no secret talks with US

Iran says the United States must correct its path to return to nuclear deal.

The spokesman for Iran's foreign minister told reporters today there have been no talks between Iran and the United States on a return to the nuclear deal or any other issues.

During a press conference, Saeed Khatibzadeh was asked about Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in which he calls for a UN-facilitated conference with representatives from Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and the United States. Iran’s inclusion in the letter has led to speculation that envoys or foreign ministers from the United States and Iran could use these talks as a springboard to holding talks over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iranian nuclear deal.

The United States exited the JCPOA in 2018 and reapplied sanctions. Iran took multiple steps away from the JCPOA compliance but remained technically in the deal despite not deriving any economic benefit from doing so. Europe also remained in the deal, although it abided by US sanctions.

Khatibzadeh said, “We have not had any contact directly or indirectly with the United States about JCPOA or non-JCPOA issues.” In regard to Blinken’s letter, Khatibzadeh said Iran has not yet received any letters from the UN regarding the meeting, and they will review it once they receive it. Khatibzadeh said regional issues are important and significant on their own, and Iran would not view any regional multilateral talks as an opportunity or concession to discuss the JCPOA with the United States.

Khatibzadeh also discussed Blinken’s latest statement that Iran is “moving in the wrong direction” on the nuclear issue. “The United States has been driving on the wrong side of the freeway for years, and it imagines that those who are driving on the correct side are in the wrong.” He said the sooner the United States realizes it is on the wrong side the better it will be for it, the world and multilateralism.

When asked by reporters if Iran is open to negotiations with the United States to return to the nuclear deal, Khatibzadeh said, “The United States has not even taken the first step, and just as we said before, they have to take steps to remove sanctions.” He added, “They have not even taken this action on paper.”

Khatibzadeh said there are three steps the Biden administration can take to have a full return to the JCPOA: a “firm commitment to their JCPOA obligations, removal of sanctions and return to the JCPOA.” He conceded that “some coordination” might be needed but “the direction is clear.” He added that it is the United States that is on the wrong path.

He also viewed Iran’s recent agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which kept cameras rolling at Iran’s nuclear sites for another three months, as an opportunity to “open a diplomatic window.” If the United States does not return to the nuclear deal and remove sanctions, Iran would delete the files permanently, it has said.

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