Paris (Reuters) – 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 U.S. administration’s policy on Iran was “destructive” and violated the terms of the accord with world powers.
With U.S. 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.
Araqchi dismissed Western assertions that Iran’s regional activities are destabilizing. He accused the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia of fomenting tensions in the Middle East.
“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 U.S. officials to meet Trump’s conditions are ongoing.
The first challenge the Europeans face is dissecting divergent U.S. statements about what Trump wants to keep issuing “waivers” to U.S. sanctions. Without the waivers, which expire May 12, the U.S. 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 al-Assad in his country’s civil war, Shi‘ite 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. “Policies of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States have led to crises and wars in the Middle East.”
Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg