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Iran Press TV

Iran urges Japan to release its assets, persuade US to lift bans

Iran Press TV

Monday, 15 February 2021 11:56 PM

Iran's foreign minister has called on Japan to unfreeze Iran's assets blocked in Japanese banks due to the US sanctions, and also persuade newly inaugurated US President Joe Biden to lift the bans imposed on Iran.

Speaking in an interview with Kyodo News, Mohammad Javad Zarif called Japan an old friend of Iran and noted its good relations with the United States.

"We expect Japan to act as a friend, particularly when it comes to international law," Zarif said, referring to the illegal nature of the US sanctions.

"Since the United States is violating international law, the best role that Japan can play is to show Americans that Japan will not implement their illegal decisions," he said.

Zarif specifically called on Japan to unfreeze Iranian assets frozen in Japanese banks due to US sanctions, as a gesture to Iran by the new government of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who came to power last September.

According to Zarif, frozen assets in Japan and South Korea total close to $10 billion. Japan's share -- mainly revenue from crude oil exports to Japan -- is estimated to be just under $3 billion.

Zarif said the unfrozen funds could be used to procure medicines and food, including vaccines for the novel coronavirus.

On the role of the European Union, Zarif stressed EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell's responsibility to sequence a restoration of compliance with the nuclear accord by Washington and Tehran.

However, Zarif ruled out direct negotiations with the Biden administration to that end.

"Mr. Borrell can specify the time frame in consultation with Iran and the United States. It is clear the United States has to take steps first," Zarif said.

"When Washington takes its steps, and we see the outcome, we can immediately take (steps) ourselves, and it is up to Borrell to choreograph these steps," he said.

While the US wants Iran to comply with its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal before the removal of its sanctions, Tehran says it was the US that left the JCPOA and thus it is the party that must act first.

In comments on Monday, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said the country will return to full implementation of its commitments under the JCPOA if the United States removes all "illegal" sanctions it has unilaterally re-imposed on Tehran after quitting the accord.

Rouhani made the remarks in a Monday meeting with visiting Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, stressing the need for the removal of all anti-Iran sanctions imposed by the US and its respect for United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorses the Iran nuclear deal.

In his interview with Kyodo News, Zarif warned the window of opportunity to resolve the impasse will soon close as Iran's parliament has set Feb. 21 as the day to end nuclear watchdog inspections beyond the country's obligations under its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"A law has been passed by parliament. That law has to be implemented," he said while pressing Biden's team to decide soon whether to return to the nuclear deal with Iran or continue Trump's legacy by not quickly lifting sanctions.

Zarif said once that window closes, Iran will produce more enriched uranium and further promote its nuclear development.

Since 2018, when Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the accord struck under his predecessor Barack Obama, Iran has downgraded its commitments.

Zarif called that a natural outcome of Trump's failed "maximum pressure" policy on Iran and added, "If President Biden wants to continue the same legacy, he will not be able to produce miracles."

The JCPOA was unilaterally ditched by Trump in May 2018, in pursuit of what he called the "maximum pressure" policy against the Islamic Republic through unilateral sanctions. Iran has denounced the policy as an act of "economic terrorism."

The US withdrawal from the deal was met with worldwide criticism, and was followed, a year later, by Iran's gradual reduction of its nuclear commitments. However, Tehran has repeatedly proclaimed that it will return to its nuclear obligations as soon as its interests under the JCPOA are met.

Joe Biden, the current president of the United States, censured Trump's withdrawal from the JCPOA during his 2020 campaign. He promised to rejoin the accord, which was signed when Biden was vice president, but has failed to take corrective measures since he assumed office on January 20 and has conditioned a return to the deal on Tehran's resumption of full compliance with the agreement.

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