Iran FM Zarif: New Sanctions Will Terminate Talks

Iran FM Zarif: New Sanctions Will Terminate Talks

TEHRAN (Dispatches) — Iran on Tuesday issued yet its most clear warning against the imposition of new sanctions, saying fresh U.S. sanctions against the Islamic Republic will scupper the Geneva nuclear talks and the ensuing deal.
“Approval of any new sanctions will be tantamount to terminating the ongoing talks,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said.
She was reacting to a sanctions bill pushed by U.S. senators to slap new sanctions on Iran which would require further reduction in Iran’s oil exports.
“The attempt by U.S. Senate and Congress for imposing new sanctions will push the trend of talks between Iran and the P5+1 (group of world powers) toward failure,” said Afkham.
Iran and the European Union will hold a two-day meeting in Geneva on Thursday to discuss implementing a landmark nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic and major powers.
“We will meet (EU negotiator) Mrs. Helga Schmid in Geneva on Thursday and Friday,” Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araqchi, told IRNA.
Schmid is a deputy of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who has overseen contacts between six world powers and Iran on the nuclear standoff.
Iran and the P5+1 – the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China – reached a deal on November 24 in Geneva.
Nuclear experts from Iran and the six powers have since held several rounds of talks to resolve various technical issues before the accord can be put into place.
The experts have to work out when the deal will be implemented. An Iranian negotiator earlier said the six powers and Iran had agreed to start implementing the deal on January 20.
On Tuesday, Afkham said Iran and European Union officials will meet in Geneva Thursday to iron out remaining obstacles in implementing the historic nuclear deal.
The two-day meeting will focus on “one or two remaining issues pending a political decision” before the deal reached in November can be put into effect, she told reporters.
Under the deal, Iran will curb parts of its nuclear energy program for six months in exchange for sanctions relief and a promise by Western powers not to impose new sanctions.
Experts from Iran and the P5+1 held a series of talks in December on how to implement the accord, after which Iranian officials said “some differences of opinion” were yet to be resolved.
The sides are considering January 20 to begin implementing the deal, which is meant to buy time for diplomacy to clinch a lasting agreement.
However, U.S. senators pushing a bill to slap new sanctions on Iran have gained support since the legislation was introduced in December, aides said.
The bill, which the White House has threatened to veto, requires further reductions in Iran’s oil exports and would apply new penalties on other industries.
The “Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act” had about 48 co-sponsors in the 100-member Senate on Monday, up from 26 when the bill was introduced on December 19, an Senate aide said.
“Expect that number to keep growing over next couple of days as folks who were out of town and staff get back in,” the aide said.
The bill was introduced by Robert Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Mark Kirk, a Republican from Illinois.
“We expect several Democrats to kind of cross the picket line and come on board this week,” the aide said.
While the bill has gained support, it remains uncertain if backers can put together the two-thirds majority in the Senate needed to override a veto by President Barack Obama.
The Obama administration has insisted the bill would damage delicate talks being held between Iran and world powers over the nuclear program, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes. Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Zarif has said a new sanctions law would kill the interim agreement.
While senior Democrats in the Senate like Menendez, from New Jersey, and Charles Schumer, from New York, support the new sanctions, there is a strong bloc of opposition in the party. Ten Democratic senators, all leaders of committees, sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last month expressing their opposition to the bill.
A bipartisan group of nine senior foreign policy experts urged Menendez and Kirk not to pass the new sanctions, saying the penalties could potentially move the United States closer to war.
Ryan Crocker, a former ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan, and Thomas Pickering, former Ambassador to Israel, India and the United Nations, were among signers of a letter to the senators that said a sanctions bill, even if it took effect in six months, would call into question Washington’s good faith and possibly isolate the United States among the countries holding talks with Iran.
The bill gives the administration up to a year to pursue a diplomatic track, which backers say would not violate terms of the interim deal.
On oil exports, the new bill seeks to cut sales at least 30% within a year and to zero within two years.

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