Iran says it can discuss other issues if nuclear deal successful

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said the US and its European allies should ensure the 2015 nuclear deal is a success before demanding to negotiate on other issues such as Tehran’s regional activities or ballistic missile program. (File Photo: AFP)
Updated 08 February 2018
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Iran says it can discuss other issues if nuclear deal successful

PARIS: The United States and its European allies should ensure the 2015 nuclear deal is a success before demanding to negotiate on other issues such as Tehran’s regional activities or ballistic missile program, Iran’s deputy foreign minister said on Thursday.
“Now they ask Iran to enter discussions on other issues. Our answer is clear: make the (deal) a successful experience and then we discuss other issues,” Abbas Araqchi told a conference.
He said the new US administration’s policy on Iran was “destructive” and violated the terms of the accord with world powers.
With US President Donald Trump warning of a last chance for “the worst deal ever negotiated,” Britain, France and Germany are working on a plan to satisfy him by addressing Iran’s ballistic missile tests and its regional influence while preserving the 2015 accord.
Speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of a Euromoney conference in Paris, Araqchi said there was no link between its influence in the Middle East region and the nuclear accord with major powers.
Iran has repeatedly refused to discuss its missile program as demanded by the United States and the Europeans, saying it is purely defensive.
Tehran says its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes and that it will stick to the accord as long as the other signatories respect it, but will “shred” the deal if Washington pulls out.
BLAME GAME
Araqchi dismissed Western assertions that Iran’s regional activities are destabilizing.
“We have always fought against terrorism. Iran has always played a key role in bringing stability and peace to the region ... There is no link between the (nuclear) deal and our role in the region,” Araqchi, also a senior negotiator in the Iran nuclear talks, told Reuters.
Trump’s ultimatum has effectively put the deal on life support until mid-May.
Speaking at the same conference, Britain’s Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, said European powers were determined to save the deal and assuage the United States, but he warned that Iran also needed to mitigate Western concerns over its regional activities.
“We and our European partners are absolutely clear. We want the deal to succeed,” Burt said. “We don’t want to see the JCPOA (deal with Iran) go down and are working with our European partners to mitigate concerns the United States may have to ensure it continues.”
Negotiations between Europeans and the US officials to meet Trump’s conditions are ongoing.
The first challenge the Europeans face is dissecting divergent US statements about what Trump wants to keep issuing “waivers” to US sanctions. Without the waivers, which expire May 12, the US sanctions return, effectively killing the deal.
“Iran also needs to avoid taking actions which threaten regional security,” Burt said specifically pointing to claims that Tehran has supplied ballistic missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Iran has denied those allegations and has repeatedly said its missile program is purely defensive.
Iran backs Syrian President Bashar Assad in his country’s civil war, militias in Iraq, Houthi rebels in Yemen and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
“Iran has always played a key role in establishing peace, restoring security and fighting against terrorism across the region,” Araqchi said.


Yemen govt, Houthis to start first phase of Hodeidah pullout

Updated 19 February 2019
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Yemen govt, Houthis to start first phase of Hodeidah pullout

  • The UN statement said both sides ‘made important progress on planning for the redeployment of forces as envisaged in the Hodeidah agreement.’
  • Under Phase 1, the Houthis would withdraw from the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef, used for grains, and Ras Isa, used for oil.

NEW YORK: Yemen’s government and the Houthi militias have agreed on the first stage of a mutual pullout of forces from the port city of Hodeidah, a key entry point for humanitarian aid, the United Nations said.

The Iran-aligned Houthi movement and the government agreed in talks in December to withdraw troops by Jan. 7 from Hodeidah under a truce accord aimed at averting a full-scale assault on the port and paving the way for negotiations to end the four-year-old war.

“The parties reached an agreement on Phase 1 of the mutual redeployment of forces,” the UN spokesman’s office said in a statement without giving details on what was agreed.

Under Phase 1, the Houthis would withdraw from the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef, used for grains, and Ras Isa, used for oil. This would be met by a retreat of Saudi-led coalition forces from the eastern outskirts of Hodeidah, where battles raged before a cease-fire went into effect on Dec. 18.

The Houthis occupy Hodeidah, the main entry point for the bulk of Yemen’s commercial and aid imports, while Yemeni government forces loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi are massed on the outskirts.

The UN statement said the two sides also agreed “in principle” on Phase 2, entailing full redeployment of both parties’ forces in Hodeidah province.

Two sources involved in the negotiations said both sides had yet to agree on a withdrawal timeline or on a mechanism for local forces to take over security at the ports and city.

“The UN is still discussing how to reduce the gap between the two sides on how to choose the forces that will control the city,” one source told Reuters.

The parties could decide within 7-10 days on where they would reposition forces, said the other source, adding that Houthi fighters could pull back as far as 20 km from the port.

Disagreement on withdrawal had delayed opening humanitarian corridors in Yemen.

Under the first phase, the two sides agreed to reopen main roads linking Hodeidah to the Houthi-occupied capital Sanaa and in Yemen’s third city of Taiz, said a UN source.

They also agreed to enable access to Red Sea Mills, which holds some 50,000 tons of World Food Program grain, enough to feed 3.7 million people for a month, the source said. Access to the site has been cut off since September due to fighting.

The Hodeidah truce has largely been respected but there have been intermittent skirmishes in flashpoints on the city’s edges.

Hodeidah became the focus of the war last year when the coalition twice launched an offensive to seize the port and weaken the Houthis by cutting of their main supply line.