Iran’s government on Monday indicated that it was prepared to take a hard line on nuclear negotiations, saying the recent U.S. withdrawal from the international deal was “irreversible” and that its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers was not subject to renegotiation.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who holds the rotating European Union presidency, made the remark a day after meeting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran. He was the first foreign official to meet with Rouhani since President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement and began pressuring countries to stop buying Iranian oil.
Rouhani, who has tried to frame the discussions as a showdown between Iran and the U.S., told Zarif that it is a “fixed deal” and the U.S. can’t change it.
Zarif, however, disputed this assertion and said that the government in Tehran is waiting for a letter from European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who leads the 2015 accord, or the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“We have been waiting to receive a letter from Federica Mogherini and the European Union heads of government,” Zarif said in remarks carried live on state television. “The EU and all countries, including the European Union — they are a party to the JCPOA — will have to take a final decision.”
Zarif said “their decisions must be subject to a process to prove that a country has brought its nuclear program to zero.”
“Iran said since the very first day of the JCPOA, which was signed by 120 countries, it will not allow any restrictions on its ability to use nuclear energy,” he said. “The JCPOA is not subject to renegotiation, and the agreement is irreversible.”
Trump pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear deal on May 8 and set in motion the reimposition of U.S. sanctions against Iran’s oil and financial sectors. He’s been pressuring countries to stop buying Iranian oil in an effort to force the nation of 80 million people to agree to new curbs on its nuclear program.
Rouhani has urged the EU to hold joint talks with Iran, and Iranian officials have indicated that European and Asian countries may be persuaded to resume oil purchases to help reduce Iran’s economic woes.
Zarif rejected that possibility, saying that Iran’s biggest ally, Russia, is facing severe financial problems that are “easily” overcome. He suggested that the bulk of the blame is for Europe’s economic predicament on the back of the U.S.
“If this idea is serious, it must be accompanied by serious, swift and concrete steps so that all countries — particularly Europe — see the situation and have the courage to take the necessary steps and correct that,” he said.
Voters will decide in elections on May 19, 2019, whether to keep the deal or scrap it.
Zarif also said that any Islamic Revolution-style protests in Iran, after people demonstrated over a housing crisis and low wages last month, will be a response to authorities taking steps to increase taxes and cut benefits.
“I must tell you that although last month was disappointing, next year is going to be even more frustrating for tens of millions of people,” he said. “The government has to bear a heavy burden. So no one should expect protesters to just … sweep into the streets, even if they fall into any frustration, financial crisis, grievances and if it has to respond to those grievances.”
However, he said the changes being proposed are good ones.
“They are necessary for the country, so the government should listen to its people’s grievances and absorb the fact that they have not benefited from the oil revenues,” he said.
“So I hope the government does not announce any policy or any measures for repressive or even more repressive, but reforms that the people will support.”