US: No unilateral gestures to Iran

US: No unilateral gestures to Iran
US President Joe Biden announced a willingness to re-negotiate with Tehran and bring Iran back into the 2015 nuclear deal when he took office in January. (AFP)
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Updated 12 March 2021

US: No unilateral gestures to Iran

US: No unilateral gestures to Iran
  • State Department official: No easing of sanctions against Tehran until it returns to nuclear deal

CHICAGO: US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Thursday that Washington will not offer incentives to Tehran for returning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Price said that Iran must return to JCPOA compliance first and then the US will follow. But there will be no easing on existing sanctions against Iran, which continues to back Houthi strikes against Saudi Arabia from Yemen.

“We will not offer any unilateral gestures or incentives to induce the Iranians to come to the table,” Price said. “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 favors or unilateral gestures, well, that is a misimpression.”

Price said the US is dug in as Tehran’s possible return to the Iran Nuclear Deal would just be the beginning.

“If Iran returns to its full compliance with the JCPOA, the United States would do the same,” he said. “As I have said before, that would be a necessary but insufficient development. Insufficient because we would then seek to lengthen and strengthen the terms of that deal, using it as a platform to negotiate follow-on arrangements to address these other areas of profound concern with Iran’s behavior in the region.”

The JCPOA is a 159-page agreement signed in 2015 by the US, Iran, France, the UK, China, Germany and Russia in which Iran would allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to monitor its nuclear programs. Former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement accusing Iran of failing to live up to the agreement's obligations.

US President Joe Biden took office in January and announced a willingness to re-negotiate with Tehran and bring Iran back into JCPOA and IAEA compliance.

Price said US envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking returned from meetings with Arab leaders in the Gulf and in Jordan on Wednesday hoping to push all of the parties to a ceasefire in Yemen, but said more discussions are required.

“Special Envoy Lenderking’s efforts were fully coordinated with the UN throughout his travel, and he finished his trip in Jordan on March 9 where he met with the UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths and senior Jordanian officials,” Price said.

“While there is some hopeful progress, more commitment is needed from the parties. Special Envoy Lenderking and Special Envoy Griffiths are committed to working side-by-side to push the parties to negotiate under the UN-proposed plan, which includes opening Hudaydah port and a ceasefire. To that end, the Houthis should end their offensive on Marib and their continued cross-border attacks against Saudi Arabia.”

Price also spoke about bringing more Arab countries to recognize Israel under the terms of the “Abraham Accords” which grant recognition to Israel beyond the current signatories, of the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

“We welcome, we support the normalization agreements between Israel and countries in the Arab world and the broader Muslim world,” Price said.

“It is something that we will seek to build on. It is something that we have welcomed from the previous administration and something, again, we will seek to build on going forward.”

But Price declined to speculate on which countries might sign.

“We have discussed it in the bilateral context with some of our partners in the Arab and Muslim world,” he said. “It is something that we have discussed with the Israelis. I would not want to get ahead of private conversations at this point. But I expect before too long, we will be in a position to say more and you will be in a position to see more about how we are going to build on that.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had planned to visit the UAE this week after announcing the Emiratis would invest $10 billion in Israel. The cancellation of his trip was sparked by a dispute with Jordan over security arrangements at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem.