Iran Told U.S. to Unblock $10 Billion to Start Nuclear Talks
Iran has told the U.S. it should release at least $10 billion of frozen Iranian funds if it wants Tehran to resume nuclear talks, a potential new snag in big-power efforts to revive the 2015 atomic accord.
In an interview with Iranian state TV, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said the Biden administration had tried to contact his team at the recent summit of world leaders at the United Nations in New York through “various channels” about restarting the negotiations, which stalled before the election of hardline cleric Ebhrahim Raisi as president in June.
He said he responded via intermediaries that “if Mr. Biden’s intentions are serious, then tell him to send a serious signal and a serious signal is releasing at least $10 billion of our blocked money.” The U.K., France and Germany should also make overtures, he said.
The U.S. hasn’t yet officially commented on the demand, and it’s unclear whether it’s a hard precondition for the talks to restart. In the meantime, sanctions against Iran remain in place and its crude stays off the market.
Raisi’s foreign policy team is much more hostile to the West than that of his predecessor Hassan Rouhani, who pushed for the accord that restricted Iran’s atomic activity in exchange for sanctions removal. Former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018 and reimposed severe sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
As a result of those penalties, Iran has billions of dollars in oil remittances frozen in accounts overseas, most in South Korea. Iranian officials have repeatedly called on the U.S. to release all of the funds and often link the issue to their ability to effectively handle the coronavirus.
It’s not clear whether the U.S. responded to the latest demand. In July, the U.S. State Department issued sanctions waivers allowing Iran to use some of the funds to settle debts to Japan and South Korea.
A strict condition of that measure was not allowing any of the money to be physically transfered to Iran. Amirabdollahian didn’t say in the interview whether he expects Iran to be given direct access to the remaining funds.
Ali Bagheri Kani, an ultraconservative critic of the nuclear agreement who was appointed deputy foreign minister last month, would lead Iran’s negotiations with world powers once they resume, Amirabdollahian said.
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