- The US has lifted sanctions against Iran’s civilian nuclear program to reinstate the 2015 agreement.
- The Donald Trump administration had ended the waiver in 2020.
- The civilian program includes Iran’s increasing stockpiles of enriched uranium.
WASHINGTON: The US State Department is waiving sanctions against Iran’s civilian nuclear program in a technical move needed to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, a senior official said Friday.
The resumption of the waiver, which ended in 2020 by the Donald Trump administration, “would be essential to ensure swift compliance by Iran” if a new deal over control of Tehran’s nuclear program can be reached during talks in Vienna, the foreign ministry official said.
The waiver allows other countries and companies to participate in Iran’s civilian nuclear program without imposing US sanctions on them, in the name of promoting security and non-proliferation.
The civilian program includes Iran’s increasing stockpiles of enriched uranium.
“Without this sanctions waiver, detailed technical discussions with third parties regarding the disposal of stockpiles and other activities of non-proliferation value cannot take place,” the official said, urging anonymity.
The move came as talks to reinstate the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, from which President Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2018, were well advanced.
Joe Biden quickly backtracked on the deal after becoming president a year ago, but Iran has since come closer to producing enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon.
The Vienna talks, involving Iran, the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, are at an important stage where the parties must make “critical political decisions,” a senior US official said last week. .
“The technical discussions facilitated by the waiver are needed in the final weeks of the JCPOA talks,” the State Department official said Friday.
– No ‘quid pro quo’ –
The US official insisted the move was not “part of a consideration” as partners in the JCPOA talks await Iran’s response on key issues.
State Department spokesman Ned Price insisted this move by the US is a sanctions waiver for the civilian nuclear program and not a broader sanctions relief.
Price wrote on Twitter: “We have NOT and WILL NOT offer Iran sanctions relief until/unless Tehran returns to its obligations under the JCPOA. We have done exactly what the last administration did: allow our international partners to support the growing nuclear nun – address proliferation and security risks in Iran.”
But even if no final deal is reached, the department official said, the exemption is important to hold discussions on nuclear non-proliferation, which are of concern to the whole world.
But the senior government official who briefed reporters about the talks last week said time was running out and urged Tehran to make important decisions.
“I think we’ve reached the point where some of the most crucial political decisions need to be made by all parties,” the official said.
The official suggested direct talks between Washington and Tehran to focus on the toughest issues separating the parties.
“If our goal is to reach an agreement quickly… the optimal way to do that, in any negotiation, is for the parties most at stake to meet face-to-face,” the official said.
In late January, Iran first said it was open to the idea of direct negotiations with the United States, but has not said where it stands since.
Experts say the JCPOA talks could resume next week, after they were halted a week ago.
Barbara Slavin, an Iran expert at the Atlantic Council, said the resumption of the exemption was a positive step.
“It is a necessary condition to restore the JCPOA and thus a good sign that this can be achieved,” she told AFP.
“These sanctions were among the dumbest and most counterproductive imposed by the former government,” she added.