Trump, Pompeo hint at US-Iran talks

“Iran’s missiles... are absolutely and under no condition negotiable with anyone or any country, period,” Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman for the Iranian mission at the UN, wrote on Twitter.

By REUTERS
July 17, 2019 02:12
4 minute read.
Trump, Pompeo hint at US-Iran talks

US President Donald Trump announces his intention to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement during a statement in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington, US, May 8, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST)

US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that progress has been made with Iran, despite Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei having warned that Tehran would continue developing its nuclear program in violation of the 2015 deal with the six world powers.

Trump, who made the remarks at a cabinet meeting in the White House, did not give details about the progress, but said he was not looking for a regime change. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added at the meeting that Iran was prepared to negotiate its missile program.

“Iran’s missiles... are absolutely and under no condition negotiable with anyone or any country, period,” Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman for the Iranian mission at the UN, wrote on Twitter.

The US administration is in a volatile standoff with Iran and has levied stiff sanctions against it to force it back to the table to renegotiate the 2015 deal, which the US exited last year. The other five powers have remained in the deal.

The EU has urged Iran to restore limits on enrichment that are aimed at obviating any dash to the development of atomic bombs.

“So far, efforts to win gestures from Iran to de-escalate the crisis are not succeeding [as] Tehran is demanding the lifting of sanctions on its oil and banking sectors first,” a European diplomatic source told Reuters.

Fears of a direct US-Iranian conflict have escalated since May after an Iranian attack on oil tankers in the Gulf, Iran’s downing of a US surveillance drone and a plan for US airstrikes on Iran last month, which Trump aborted at the last minute.

In what loomed as another obstacle to troubleshooting diplomacy, Iran confirmed on Tuesday that it had detained French-Iranian scholar Fariba Adelkhah, but declined to elaborate after Paris demanded information on her case.

“Western governments’ major vice is their arrogance,” Khamenei said. “If the country opposing them is a weak one, their arrogance works. But if it’s a country that knows and stands up against them, they will be defeated.” On Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Javed Zarif warned the US that it was “playing with fire” with its sanctions regime, in an interview he gave to NBC.

Zarif, however, told NBC that “we’re not close to military war.” But the sanctions, he said, were problematic because they targeted “ordinary citizens” who need medicine and medical treatment.

Now that the US has imposed new sanctions, Zarif said, Tehran felt that it could violate the deal. Last week, Iran began enriching uranium beyond the limit set by the deal.

“We have an agreement and that agreement includes remedies, once one side of the agreement starts violating,” he said. In light of the current reality, “we are free to start partial implementation.”

Zarif noted that its nuclear actions could be “reversed within hours.”

He denied to NBC that Iran planed to develop nuclear weapons.

“We are not about to develop nuclear weapons. If we wanted to develop nuclear weapons, we would have been able to do it a long time ago,” Zarif said.

With regard to Trump’s decision last month not to launch a retaliatory military strike for attacks it believed were leveled against it by Tehran, Zarif said, “my analysis is that prudence prevailed. People came to the occlusion that this would not be a limited operation.”

Zarif is in New York under a restricted visa that limits his movements to a six-block radius. It’s a move that only allows him to primarily be in UN headquarters in Manhattan, the Iranian Mission to the UN and the residence of the Iranian ambassador.

US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said of the restrictions, “We don’t need to let Iranians roam freely in New York City.”

Pompeo also said Sunday that the “US diplomats don’t roam around Tehran, so we don’t see any reason for Iranian diplomats to roam freely around New York City either.”

The UN is “concerned” by the tight travel limitations the US has imposed on Zarif while he is in New York this week, UN spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters on Monday.

“The Secretariat is in close contact with the Permanent Missions of the United States and Iran to the UN regarding this matter and has conveyed its concerns to the host country,” Haq said.

While in New York, Zarif is likely to meet with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Zarif’s visit comes amid heightened military tensions between the US and Iran. It also follows Tehran’s decision to enrich uranium above the terms set by the 2015 Iran deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Haq said Guterres supports the Iran deal and considers it a “significant diplomatic achievement.”

He added that the “secretary-general has repeatedly called for all parties to abide by the terms of the agreement and has made clear that we need to keep this preserved.

“Otherwise, there is the possibility, as he has repeatedly warned, of a confrontation in a region that has had far too many tensions,” Haq said.

Zarif is due to attend a ministerial meeting at the UN on sustainable development goals, which aims to tackle issues including conflict, hunger, equality and climate change by 2030.

Iranian diplomats, like the envoys of North Korea, Syria and Cuba, are already confined to a radius of 40 km. from Columbus Circle in Midtown Manhattan.

Seth Frantzman contributed to this report.


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