Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told world leaders Wednesday that there would be no negotiations with the United States as long as economic sanctions remained in effect.
By: Margaret Besheer
“We once negotiated under sanctions. We will not do so again. Halt the sanctions and return to your commitments so the dialogue may reopen,” he said at the U.N. General Assembly.
The U.S. imposed measures targeting Iran’s key oil industry after withdrawing last year from the 2015 agreement that limited Iran’s nuclear program. The Trump administration said that deal between Iran and world powers did not do enough to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons or engaging in other perceived malign behaviors.
Tehran has since surpassed some of the 2015 agreement’s limitations, arguing that the other signatories are not living up to their part of the agreement, particularly ensuring it gets sanctions relief.
“For one year, Iran remained fully faithful to all of its nuclear commitments in the JCPOA,” Rouhani said, referring to the nuclear deal by its initialism. “We provided Europe with the opportunity to fulfill its 11 commitments made to compensate for the U.S. withdrawal. However, unfortunately, we only heard beautiful words, while witnessing no effective measures.”
European efforts to keep Iran in compliance with the deal by easing some of its economic pain through a special trade mechanism have not provided the scope of relief Tehran seeks.
“We will continue to work together with the unity of purpose to try and preserve it, without ignoring the challenges,” European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said of the nuclear deal.
“As you know, the agreement has two pillars — the nuclear commitment and the economic side that is linked to the sanctions lifting. On both elements, there is full determination to try and preserve the agreement,” she told reporters at the United Nations after a meeting Wednesday morning with the remaining participants of the nuclear deal.
She acknowledged that since the U.S. withdrew from the deal last year and Iran began to take steps away from its commitments, saving the deal was becoming complicated.
“I will not hide that it is increasingly difficult to do it, and we have discussed today the fact that we will try and continue keeping the agreement in place and overcome the difficulties we are facing,” Mogherini said.
In his speech, Rouhani made clear that Tehran’s “patience has a limit.”
He also alluded to earlier hopes that this week’s U.N. gathering could provide a venue for an encounter between himself and U.S. President Donald Trump.
“Memorial photos are the last station of negotiations, not the first one,” Rouhani said.
In an interview with VOA Persian in New York, exiled Iranian opposition activist Reza Pirzadeh accused Rouhani of hypocrisy for demanding the lifting of U.S. sanctions before any talks with Washington.
“The real sanctions engulfing the Iranian people are the restrictions imposed upon them by the regime itself,” said Pirzadeh, a political officer of the Iran National Council for Free Elections group. Iranian opposition activists long have accused Iran’s Islamist rulers of suppressing dissent and committing human rights abuses.
The Iranian president began his speech by denouncing U.S. plans to unveil a peace deal to resolve the long-running conflict between Israel, a U.S. ally, and the Palestinians, whom Tehran traditionally has backed. Rouhani said the U.S. peace bid was doomed to fail and called the Palestinian people “the biggest victim” of turmoil in the Middle East.
Alireza Nourizadeh, a London-based Iranian political analyst and critic of the Iranian government, told VOA Persian that Rouhani was being duplicitous in expressing support for the Palestinians.
“By providing support to chaos and warmongering, the Iranian regime prevented a peace process from coming to fruition whenever the prospect for peace was strong. Hence, the regime is not a friend of any nation,” Nourizadeh said.
Iran long has provided money and weapons to Palestinian Islamist militant groups that seek Israel’s destruction.
Rouhani’s address came a day after Trump labeled the Iranian regime one of the greatest global threats. He told the General Assembly that Tehran oppresses its citizens at home while fueling conflicts and terrorism beyond its borders.
He said as long as this continued, U.S. sanctions would be tightened, not lifted. But he left open the door to diplomacy, noting that some of America’s past enemies were now its closest friends.
Speaking in New York alongside Trump at a Wednesday press briefing wrapping up U.S. involvement in the General Assembly session, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not mention Rouhani’s remarks but said the U.S. made “real progress in uniting the world” behind the administration’s Iran policies.
“We hope we can get the opportunity to negotiate with [Iran] … to make sure that they never have a nuclear weapon and that they can’t foment their terror with ballistic missiles in the way they have all around the world,” Pompeo said.
Earlier this month, U.S. officials accused Iran of being responsible for a missile-and-drone attack on Saudi oil facilities, which Iran denied. Tehran also denies seeking nuclear weapons. (VOA)