0734 GMT February 21, 2019
Iranian Foreign Minister criticized the US illegal military presence in the Persian Gulf, saying it creates tension in the region.
"We believed from the outset that the US presence in the Persian Gulf is not only illegal, but also a source of tension,” Zarif told China’s Phoenix TV in an interview aired Friday night.
Zarif pointed to arrival of a US aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, saying it would not have a “positive effect”, rather it would cause tension. “Whenever Americans have increased their presence in the Persian Gulf, all Persian Gulf states have faced dangers.”
The USS John C. Stennis entered the body of water on December 21, ending a long absence of US aircraft carriers in the region.
The top Iranian diplomat said the US presence is harmful to the Middle East.
"Iran is a powerful country and it can defend its interests but America's presence can be detrimental to the region," he added.
Responding to the question that Chinese analysts believe that after six months, Iran has no option but to negotiate with the United States, Zarif said Chinese experts will change their mind after six months.
"We will never negotiate with the United States in a state of emergency. Iran was not the party that left negotiations,” he said.
Zarif noted that it was the US that withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal in May and ended negotiations.
"I think Chinese analysts will come to the conclusion that the United States has no choice but to change its decision," the Iranian minister said.
US President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran lifted under the landmark deal after pulling Washington out of it. The sanctions targeted Iran’s oil exports and banking sectors among other things.
Washington had been pushing governments to cut imports of Iranian oil to zero, but it granted Iran’s biggest buyers – China, India, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Greece, Taiwan and Turkey – sanctions waivers.
Zarif said the United States cannot stop Iranian oil sales and if it wants to do so, it has to adopt “policies that would plunge the world into chaos.”
Zarif added that it would be difficult to strike a deal better than the current one with world powers three years ago and that a new accord, if Iran agrees to negotiate, would not be much different from the current one.
Answering a question about the European Union trade mechanism for Iran to bypass US sanctions, Zarif said Iran has set up special payment channels with its key trade partners including China and Russia.
“Europe is not our most important trading partner. Our main partners are China, Russia and our neighbors. We have created our own mechanisms with these countries.”
He said European parties to the nuclear deal which include Germany, France and Britain “must demonstrate their responsibilities” and if they fail to do so, that means “Europe cannot be a reliable partner for the world.”
European countries are trying to set up a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to allow non-dollar trade with Iran.
The SPV would act as a clearing house that could be used to help match Iranian oil and gas exports to purchases of EU goods, circumventing US sanctions which are based on the global use of the dollar for oil trading.
Diplomats have said that France and Germany are to take joint responsibility for the mechanism which is expected to be launched in January.
The European Union has so far enabled its lending arm, the European Investment Bank, to add Iran to a list of countries with which it does business and introduced a law to shield European companies from US sanctions.
Zarif said Europeans have said that they were working on a financial mechanism, but “we never waited for Europe and we are not waiting.”