With Iran, China, European powers, and the U.S. set to resume nuclear talks in Vienna on Monday, Iranian negotiators made clear that the Biden administration must lift crippling economic sanctions if it hopes to return to the multilateral deal that former President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran has entered the talks with a strong will and elaborate preparations in order to ensure the removal of unlawful and cruel sanctions," Ali Baqeri-Kani, Iranian deputy foreign minister for political affairs and the nation's lead negotiator in Vienna, said Monday in an interview with the IRIB News Agency .
"They abandoned the pact, so they should return to it and lift all sanctions."
Further denouncing the sanctions as "tyrannical and illegal," Baqeri-Kani added that "the main focus and priority of the Vienna negotiations will be on the removal of sanctions," which have hobbled Iran's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead of offering sanctions relief ahead of the nuclear talks, President Joe Biden hit Iran with additional sanctions last month ahead of the latest round of nuclear talks, adding to the punitive measures that Trump reimposed when he pulled the U.S. out of the 2015 nuclear accord over three and a half years ago--a move that pushed the two nations to the brink of all-out war.
Despite its rejection of Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran as a failure, the Biden administration has thus far refused to grant Iran's demand for sanctions relief as parties to the nuclear deal--formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)--attempt to chart a path for the U.S. to return to compliance.
Iranian officials, who are refusing to meet directly with the Biden administration's delegation in Vienna, emphasized Monday that the onus is on the U.S. to ensure the full revival of the nuclear accord, given that its actions have pushed the deal to the brink of collapse.
"Our demands are clear," one unnamed Iranian official close to the Vienna negotiations told Reuters on Monday. "Other parties and especially Americans should decide whether they want this deal to be revived or not. They abandoned the pact, so they should return to it and lift all sanctions."
Saeed Khatibzadeh, a spokesperson for Iran's Foreign Ministery, echoed that message, telling the media during a press conference Monday that "if the U.S. comes [to Vienna] to lift the sanctions, it will receive a ticket back to the JCPOA room."
"Otherwise," said Khatibzadeh, "it will remain out of the JCPOA table."