The government of Iran denied it would engage the United States in talks on Tuesday after the administration of President Joe Biden confirmed on Monday that it would send an envoy to Vienna, Austria, where the remaining signatories of the Iran nuclear deal are scheduled to discuss a path forward.
“No negotiations will take place between the representatives of Iran and the United States,” Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters on Tuesday, according to Iran’s Mehr News Agency.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry elsewhere emphasized, “no representative from the United States will attend the Joint Commission meeting or related expert meetings and no direct and indirect negotiations with the United States are on the agenda of Iran’s delegation.”
Rabiei insisted that no talks would occur between Washington and Tehran unless the United States lifted all sanctions imposed on the Islamic regime in response to its extensive human rights violations and its development of an illegal nuclear weapons program.
The 2015 Iran nuclear deal – formally the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (JCPOA) – is an agreement between Iran and Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia allegedly designed to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. America was a signatory to the deal under President Barack Obama, but President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, describing it as unfair and accusing Iran of repeatedly violating its provisions.
The Biden administration’s State Department leadership claimed on Monday that it would engage in “discussions” with Iranian officials in Vienna, but not “direct” ones, on how to find a role for America in the deal, potentially leading to the reversal of Trump-era sanctions on the regime.
“[The talks] will be structured around working groups that our European – that the EU is going to form with the remaining parties to the JCPOA, and that includes Iran. The primary issues to be discussed are actually quite simple,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters. “They’re, on the one hand, the nuclear steps that Iran would need to take in order for Iran to return to that desired end state – and again, that is an end state of compliance with the JCPOA – and the sanctions relief steps that the United States would need to take in order for us to return to compliance with the JCPOA.”
“These discussions, we fully expect, will be difficult,” Price added, “but we do believe that these discussions with our partners and, in turn, our partners (discussions) with Iran, are a healthy step forward.”
“Now, we don’t anticipate at present that there will be direct talks with Iran, though, of course, we remain open to them,” he added, “And so we’ll have to see how things go starting early this week.”
U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley, Biden’s top Iran diplomat, will reportedly lead the U.S. delegation to Vienna. The delegation will not be staying in the same hotel as the officials in town for the JCPOA talks and it is unclear exactly what they will be doing there, or if the European leaders welcomed its presence at all.
While confirming that Tehran had no interest in speaking to Malley, Rabiei, the Iranian regime spokesman, declared his presence a victory on Tuesday.
“Today we are witnessing a new chapter in the process of defeating coercion and reviving the JCPOA,” Rabiei told reporters. “As we predicted at the height of the Trump administration’s bullying and pressure, the United States eventually, frustrated by the wrong path, admit that maximum pressure has failed and that there is no choice but to revive the JCPOA and get all parties back to their commitments.”
“This success would never have been achieved if we had not stood up to the Trump regime in spite of all external and internal pressures to leave the JCPOA, and if our people had not endured this severe suffering,” the spokesman asserted. “Today, we are confident that in the very near future, the US government will have no choice but to end its lawless conduct, and that unilateral sanctions which are in violation of international agreements and regulations will end.”
Rabiei added that Iranian representatives would address American counterparts only after the elimination of sanctions on the regime.
PressTV, an Iranian government media outlet, cited a “source close to the Iranian negotiating team” on Monday that similarly claimed, “Tehran will not accept any outcome of the Vienna meeting other than the removal of all sanctions,” meaning it would not negotiate at all.
“Robert Malley will have to leave Vienna empty-handed if the Tuesday meeting would result in anything other than the removal of all U.S. sanctions,” according to the alleged “source.”
Public statements from Iranian officials have not wavered from this demand.
“The agenda of this [joint] commission meeting is the removal of all U.S. cruel sanctions against Iran, and in other words, clarification of how parties [to the deal] should fulfill their commitments,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Monday. “The path is clear. All US sanctions [against Iran] must be removed at once. Then [this measure] must be verified [by Tehran] and only then, the Islamic Republic will take its step [to return to full commitments under the nuclear deal].”
Iran is not offering the other members of the JCPOA anything in exchange for their demand that the United States, no longer a party to the JCPOA, lift sanctions.