Iran's message to world 'peace and stability'
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday he was open to discuss small changes to a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers if the United States lifted sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic.
“I will be open to discuss small changes, additions or amendments to nuclear deal if sanctions were taken away,” Rouhani told media in New York where he will attend the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly, according to Reuters.
US President Donald Trump exited the deal last year in May and reimposed and toughened sanctions on Iran that were lifted under the pact in return for curbing its nuclear program.
Iran responded this year in May by gradually breaching nuclear commitments made in the accord and set an October deadline to further scale back its nuclear obligations unless the European partners to the deal salvage the pact by shielding Tehran’s economy from Washington’s sanctions.
Rouhani, as his website wrote, urged the US to halt its campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran for negotiations
“The continuation of the sanctions, which have been executed under maximum pressure, are the US preconditions for talks, while in our view any precondition must first be removed,” Rouhani said.
Rouhani said after the sanctions were lifted, the US can join talks with Iran and other signatories to the deal.
In a joint statement, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel reaffirmed their support for the 2015 Iran nuclear.
They also urged Iran to reverse its rollback on key provisions in the nuclear deal and calls for a new agreement.
“The time has come for Iran to accept negotiation on a long-term framework for its nuclear program as well as on issues related to regional security, including its missiles program and other means of delivery,” Britain, France and Germany said.
Before the release of the joint statement, Johnson said Britain still backs the existing nuclear agreement and wants Iran to stick to its terms but urged Trump to strike a new deal with Iran.
"Whatever your objections with the old nuclear deal with Iran, it's time now to move forward and do a new deal," he said.
In an interview with US network NBC on Monday, Johnson said Trump was “the one guy who can do a better deal. ... I hope there will be a Trump deal.”
Asked about Johnson's suggestion, Trump said he respects the British leader and believes the current agreement expires too soon.
But Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif ruled out the possibility of negotiating a new deal with major powers in a tweet on Monday, saying that European partners have failed to fulfill their commitments under the 2015 nuclear pact.
“E3’s paralysis in fulfilling their obligations w/o US permission has been clear since May 2018 ... No new deal before compliance w/ current one,” Zarif said on Twitter.
European leaders have struggled to defuse a brewing confrontation between Tehran and Washington since the US pullout of the deal.
Macron has led a European push over the summer to find a compromise between the United States and Iran and wants to use the UN meeting as an opportunity to revive diplomacy, though his efforts have stalled in recent weeks.
When asked about Macron’s attempt to mediate, Trump said: “We don’t need a mediator. ... They (Iran) know who to call.”
The United States will intensify pressure on Iran, US Special Envoy for Iran Brian Hook said in New York on Monday.
Trump flirted with meeting Rouhani while both are in New York, but the chances appear slim.
Trump, arriving at the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, was asked about the possibility of meeting Rouhani.
“We’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters.
“We haven’t received any requests this time, yet, for a meeting and we have made it clear a request alone will not do the job,” Zarif told reporters in New York earlier on Monday. “A negotiation has to be for a reason, for an outcome, not just for a handshake.”
He said there are conditions for a meeting – Iran has demanded the United States lift sanctions – and then there could be a meeting between Iran, the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China – the original parties to the nuclear deal – but there would be no bilateral meeting.
Regional peace, stability
Speaking after he arrived in New York on Monday, Rouhani said Iran’s message to the world “is peace, stability and also we want to tell the world that the situation in the Persian Gulf is very sensitive”.
Rouhani said he is also carrying the "message of the great nation of Iran, which is under the pressure of a cruel economic war."
"Our nation is a nation of resistance, perseverance, and wants all sides to return to their commitments and to the law," he noted, expressing the hope that he would be able to convey the Iranian nation's message to the international community at the UN General Assembly.
Before leaving for New York, Rouhani said that the peace initiative that he will unveil at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday is aimed at establishing long-term peace in the Persian Gulf, something he said is simply not achievable as long as outsiders are present.
Rouhani said his regional peace plan, dubbed HOPE (Hormuz Peace Endeavor), is designed to include all countries of the region and aims to expand cooperation beyond regional security.
"This plan is about collective work within the Persian Gulf region and we want all countries of the region to partake in it," Rouhani said. "Of course, the plan that will be laid out at the United Nations won't be just about security, but rather economy and other issues, all in line with security matters."
"We believe the solution for the region comes from inside the region and those who come from the outside can never bring peace and security," he said Monday morning.
"I hope we can roll out this plan and tell the world that Iran is looking for lasting peace in the region and is willing to" discuss it with other countries with the UN involved in the process, he said of his HOPE initiative.
Zarif also revealed that regional powers including Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Yemen could join the broad of regional coalition to ensure security in the Persian Gulf.
Speaking to reporters at a working breakfast with journalists on the eve of the UN General Assembly, Zarif said the coalition concept would act under the auspices of the United Nations.
After arriving in New York, Rouhani met with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron. The two presidents discussed ways to ease regional tensions and save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
The two presidents talked for more than 90 minutes shortly after France, Britain Germany laid the blame for a Sept. 14 attack on Saudi oil facilities squarely on Iran.
Rouhani rejected the joint statement as "groundless blame game".
In their statement, the three European leaders pledged to try to ease tensions in the Middle East and urged Iran to "refrain from choosing provocation and escalation."
"It is clear to us that Iran bears responsibility for this attack. There is no other plausible explanation," they said. "We support ongoing investigations to establish further details."
Zarif on Monday denied any Iran’s part in the attack and pointed to claims of responsibility by Yemen’s Houthi and said: "If Iran were behind this attack, nothing would have been left of this refinery."
He said that Yemen's Houthis "have every reason to retaliate" for the Saudi-led coalition's aerial attacks on their country.
Zarif also stressed that on the eve of Rouhani's visit to the United Nations "it would be stupid for Iran to engage in such activity."
Reuters, AP, AFP and Press TV contributed to this story.