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State Department: Iran must ‘create space’ for diplomacy

The administration still views diplomacy as the "best path" to ensuring Iran does not obtain nuclear weapons, but Tehran must take "de-escalatory steps," says U.S. State Department spokesman.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (right) meets with Palestinian terrorist leaders in Damascus, May 4, 2023. Source: Twitter.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (right) meets with Palestinian terrorist leaders in Damascus, May 4, 2023. Source: Twitter.

While diplomacy remains the best option to deal with Iran’s nuclear program, Tehran has yet to demonstrate real willingness to address other nations’ concerns, said U.S State Department Spokesman Matthew Miller on Tuesday.

“We continue to believe that diplomacy is the best path for ensuring that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon. That position hasn’t changed,” said Miller during a Sept. 26 press briefing.

His remarks came in response to a question about signals from Iran that it’s ready to resume negotiations, possibly involving the Qataris, Omanis and Japanese (Arab News, citing Kyodo News, reported on Tuesday that Iran said the Japanese proposal “aligns with ‘Iran’s interests.’”) 

“We have not yet seen indications, despite some of these public comments, that Iran is serious about addressing the concerns that we have, the concerns that other countries have about its nuclear program,” said Miller.

As U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said as recently as last week, noted Miller, “Iran must take de-escalatory steps if it wants to reduce tensions and create a space for diplomacy.”

The State Department spokesman referred specifically to Iran’s lack of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. “I will say just in the last few weeks we’ve seen Iran take steps to undermine the International Atomic Energy Agency’s ability to do its work,” he said.

“So if Iran really is serious about taking de-escalatory steps, the first thing it could do would be to cooperate with the IAEA,” he added.

Most recently, on Sept. 16, Iran barred IAEA inspectors from overseeing its nuclear activities.

“I strongly condemn this disproportionate and unprecedented unilateral measure,” said IAEA Director Rafael Grossi at the time. “With today’s decision, Iran has effectively removed about one third of the core group of the Agency’s most experienced inspectors designated for Iran.”

On Tuesday, Israel Atomic Energy Commission director general Moshe Edri warned that Iran has repeatedly violated a U.N. resolution banning ballistic-missile-related activities. The resolution will expire next month.

He told attendees at the annual conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on Tuesday that “Iran continues to develop, test and deploy long-range ballistic missiles in direct violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.” 

In July, a European official told Reuters that it would not be difficult to persuade E.U. nations to maintain the expiring ballistic missile sanctions on Iran.

The European sources cited three reasons for maintaining sanctions, according to the report: 1. Russia’s use of Iranian drones in its war against Ukraine 2. Possible Iranian transfer of ballistic missiles to Russia, and 3. Iran’s violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 nuclear accords.

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