US reacts to reports of imposing further sanctions on Iran

TEHRAN, Jul. 20 (MNA) – The US Department of State Spokesperson Ned Price reacted to a US media report Monday evening that sanctions against Iran could escalate if the Vienna talks fail.

The US is considering tighter sanctions on Iranian oil sales to China as a way to encourage Tehran to conclude a nuclear deal and raise the costs of abandoning stalled negotiations, Wall Street Journal said on Monday, July 19.

According to the WSJ, the new sanctions would choke off Iran’s swelling crude-oil sales to China, the country’s main client, targeting the shipping networks that help export an estimated one million barrels a day and bring critical revenue to Iran, the officials said, adding that the new steps would take place if nuclear talks fail.

Answering a question about the report of the Wall Street Journal, Ned Price said, "Well, when it comes to sanctions and sanctions enforcement, you are, in fact, correct. All US sanctions remain in place until and unless they may be lifted through a diplomatic process."

"Of course, that brings us to Vienna. We’ve been very clear on that. We remain open to continuing and ultimately completing the JCPOA discussions in a productive manner and returning to the boundaries of that deal. And we are – we remain open to doing that precisely because we recognize, along with the international community, the advantage of a mechanism that ensures permanently and verifiably that Iran cannot acquire a nuclear weapon," he added.

"Now whether the Raeisi government chooses to see – chooses to move forward with those discussions and when, that’s certainly something we hope the Raeisi government will do, but we’re not in a position to speak for them. And we would need to refer you to them for comments on their position," Price said.

Ned Price went on to respond to a reporter's question that "just on sanctions, so your position is there has been no loosening of enforcement – it’s the same", saying, "That’s correct. That’s correct."

The US State Department spokesman reiterated Washington's position on the Vienna talks, saying, "Well, you heard this from us last week, but – we were prepared to continue negotiating, but the Iranians have requested more time to deal with their presidential transition."

Stating that the US remains interested in a mutual return to the JCPOA, he claimed, "Look, we’ve been in this position for quite some time. We’ve made no secret about our willingness to entertain these talks, about our desire precisely because it is in the national interest to see a mutual return to the JCPOA."

The US official further stated that the offer of negotiations to Iran will not continue indefinitely. "But we’ve also been clear that this offer won’t be on the table indefinitely. When Iran is done with its process, we are prepared to return to Vienna and continue with those talks."

Iran has held six rounds of talks with JCPOA participants known as the P4+1 with the aim of salvaging the JCPOA in the Austrian capital of Vienna. Tehran has insisted that it would resume full compliance with the deal after the full removal of the sanctions that the previous US administration under Trump illegally imposed on Tehran after its unilateral and illegitimate withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018. 

It has already stressed that it would leave the Vienna talks if they take too long and if its legitimate demands as per the JCPOA are not met. Anyway, the other parties, especially the Europeans seem to be killing time while the new US administration is still sticking to the Trump-era sanctions.

The current US administration has not yet fulfilled the promises Joe Biden made during his presidential elections campaigns to undo Trump's actions and return to the deal. In the meantime, Tehran has also stressed that the Biden administration's return to the agreement without lifting the sanctions is not important at all.

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