07:11 GMT11 April 2021
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    Nearly three months into President Biden’s term in office, Washington and Tehran remain deadlocked on restoring the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear agreement to working order. The US side says Iran must return to compliance with the agreement and dramatically reduce uranium enrichment. Tehran says Washington must scrap sanctions first.

    The United States does not want to give Iran the “misimpression” that it’s taking a soft line on Iran’s energy exports to incentivize the country to join JCPOA talks, State Department spokesman Ned Price has said.

    “We will not offer any unilateral gestures or incentives to induce the Iranians to come to the table. If the Iranians are under the impression that absent any movement on their part to resume full compliance with the JCPOA that we will offer favours or unilateral gestures, well, that’s a misimpression,” Price said, speaking to reporters in Washington on Thursday.

    The spokesman stressed that “if and only if Tehran comes to the negotiating table would we be in a position, would we be prepared to discuss proposals that could help push both sides back on that path of mutual compliance to the deal. Ultimately, that is where we seek to go: compliance for compliance.”

    Price also suggested that the JCPOA would just be the first step in a US-led process to “strengthen the terms” of the JCPOA and to use it as a springboard to “negotiate follow-on arrangements to address other areas of profound concerns with Iran’s behaviour in the region.”

    Price’s remarks come in the wake of reports that Iran has increased deliveries of oil – the lifeblood of the Islamic Republic’s export earnings, to customers in China. Additionally, Indian importers have reportedly added Iranian crude to their annual import plans in anticipation of an easing of US sanctions against Tehran. Last week, Indian media reported that National Iranian Oil Co had approached at least five refiners across Asia to gauge interest in its crude exports.

    The Trump administration’s 2018 decision to pull the US out of the JCPOA was followed by the imposition of crushing sanctions against Iran, with Washington threatening to bring the country’s oil exports down “to zero” and intimidating its traditional Asian customers via threats of secondary restrictions. The threats prompted India, South Korea and Japan to halt imports, but a number of Chinese refiners continued to do business with the nation in defiance of the restrictions.

    Iran has said repeatedly that it will not pull back on its nuclear enrichment activities until the US drops sanctions first, since it was the US side which violated the terms of the JCPOA in the first place.

    On Thursday, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Abbas Araghchi told Sputnik Persian that talks were not needed for Iran to return to its obligations – only the removal of sanctions.

    “In our opinion, the US return to the nuclear agreement does not require any meeting. When did the Americans hold talks with anyone when they withdrew from the agreement? Did they hold a meeting…We believe that there is no need for negotiations or any meeting,” Araghchi, who served a senior negotiator in the JCPOA talks, said.

    Tehran expressed cautious optimism regarding Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign promises to return the US to the JCPOA nuclear deal, but also warned that it would not accept any attempts – by Trump or by Biden, to modify its terms. This week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote Biden a letter urging him to adopt a “comprehensive” approach to Iran that addresses not only its nuclear programme, but also other alleged “illicit behaviour,” including the country’s missile programme, and its support for militias fighting Daesh (ISIS)* and other terrorists in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

    Iran maintains that it has no intention of pursuing a nuclear weapons, and has urged that United States and its allies to destroy their own confirmed stocks of nukes and other weapons of mass destruction.

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