Ahead of Vienna Talks, US Envoy Says Iran’s Missile Program, Regional Activities Should Be Addressed in ‘Follow-On’ Deal

US diplomat Rob Malley. Photo: International Peace Institute.

With the US and Iran set to commence indirect talks in Vienna on returning to the JCPOA nuclear deal this week, the Biden administration’s envoy to Iran said Tuesday morning that the US would seek a “follow-on deal” to address issues raised by Israel and several Arab countries that were not addressed by the 2015 accord.

Speaking with NPR, Special Representative Robert Malley said, “What we would pursue is, first of all, a longer agreement,” a reference to the so-called “sunset clause” in the JCPOA, which would allow Iran to resume nuclear activity after a decade.

“Even though [the JCPOA] lasts quite some time and some of its provisions last forever, of course, it would be better, as in any arms control agreement, to see whether we could get a follow-on deal that extends the timelines,” Malley explained.

“And, you know, we have concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile program,” he added. “We have concerns about their activities in the region. We want to talk about all that.”

“But we’re much better off talking about all of that if we could at least put the current nuclear issue to the side and not have to worry every day about what the latest Iranian announcement will be,” Malley said.

Israel and several Arab states aligned against Iran have pressed for the new talks to address issues beyond the Islamic republic’s immediate progress towards a nuclear weapon, particularly its sponsorship of terrorism and proxy wars across the Middle East.

Malley’s remarks came as parties to the 2015 deal — including the US and Iran, as well as British, French, and German representatives — gathered in the Austrian capital for a multi-day round of talks, with the latter delegations facilitating indirect talks between the Americans and Iranians. Representatives from Russia and China, which also signed the original accord, were present as well.

Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, rejected on Tuesday the idea of any follow-on agreement.

“Regardless of whether Europe has the will or ability to persuade #USA to lift all sanctions at once & Washington’s return to its commitments, there will be no possibility for Iran entering the talks in the new fields, more than JCPOA, under any circumstances,” he tweeted.

Meanwhile, the Iranian news agency Fars reported that government spokesman Ali Rabiyee said that Iran will make no concessions without an end to sanctions.

Speaking in florid propagandistic tones, Rabiyee said, “Today, we are at the beginning of a plan to revive the nuclear deal and the US government has no choice but to end its law-breaking behavior and illegal sanctions.”

“Iran will not reverse the steps it has taken in reduction of its obligations until the sanctions are completely lifted,” he added. “No step-by-step plan has been announced by us and Iran has not accepted any such plan.”

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Author: Benjamin Kerstein

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