Araqchi: Iran to return to JCPOA if US sanctions lifted
Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo on Tuesday renewed his country’s support for the Iran nuclear deal.
“Japan still supports the JCPOA and will continue its diplomatic role in resolving the problems surrounding this international accord,” Abe told Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Seyyed Abbas Araqchi in Tokyo, using the official name of the multilateral agreement.
At the meeting, Araqchi serving as a special envoy, relayed President Hassan Rouhani’s written message to Abe.
According to a Japanese source close to bilateral relations, Araqchi sounded out Abe on Rouhani’s visiting the country.
Abe expressed gratitude for Rouhani’s message and welcomed the continuation of political consultations between the two countries.
He voiced concern over Iran’s departure from some of its nuclear commitments, saying that the deal must be preserved.
Araqchi said Iran is ready to return to the JCPOA and fully implement it if the US lifts all sanctions.
Last year in May, US President Donald Trump abandoned the 2015 pact between Iran and world powers under which Tehran accepted curbs to its nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions.
Washington has reimposed sanctions aimed at halting all Iranian oil exports, saying it seeks to force Iran to negotiate to reach a wider deal. Tehran has rejected talks unless Washington returns to the nuclear deal and lifts all sanctions.
In May, one year after the US pullout, Iran began retaliating by scaling back its commitments to the deal.
Since then, Iran has taken four steps back from the accord. The latest was on November 4 when its engineers began feeding uranium hexafluoride gas into mothballed enrichment centrifuges at the underground Fordo plant south of Tehran.
Following the latest step, the European parties to the deal — Britain, France and Germany — and the EU said Iran's decision to resume activities at Fordo was "inconsistent" with the nuclear deal and warned the JCPOA’s dispute resolution mechanism could be triggered if Iran continued down that path.
It covers various stages that could take several months to unfold, but the issue could eventually end up before the UN Security Council, which could decide to reimpose sanctions.
Iran warned Sunday it will “seriously reconsider” its commitments to the UN atomic watchdog if European parties trigger the dispute mechanism.
A five-nation commission overseeing the Iran nuclear deal is set to meet in Vienna on December 6. The joint commission is made up of the three European nations and the deal's other remaining parties, China and Russia.
In a separate meeting with Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, Araqchi said the current situation in the Middle East and around the Persian Gulf is “more serious than ever before.”
“Tensions continue to run high. That is why discussions and cooperation between Japan and Iran is becoming more and more important,” he said.
Regional tensions have escalated after attacks earlier this year on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, the crucial sea lane out of the Persian Gulf, and a strike on Saudi Arabian oil facilities, both of which the United States has blamed on Iran. Tehran has strongly rejected Washington’s accusations.
Japan, which is a key US security ally but also maintains friendly relations with Iran, has sought to play a mediating role, with Abe traveling to Tehran in a bid to broker dialogue.
Araqchi hailed the trip as a “turning point” in bilateral relations.
The United States, meanwhile, has called for a coalition to patrol waters near the strait and protect commercial shipping, dubbed Operation Sentinel.
Japan has opted not to participate in the coalition.
The Japan Times and AFP contributed to this story.