Iran to U.S.: ‘You should … pay more’ for a new agreement
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that if the United States wanted an agreement beyond the 2015 nuclear deal it has abandoned “you should … pay more” and appeared to reject talks with U.S. President Donald Trump for now.
“Our response to talks under pressure is no,” Rouhani said in a speech at United Nations General Assembly as the United States raised the pressure by sanctioning Chinese firms for dealing in Iranian oil despite U.S. sanctions.
The U.S.-Iranian confrontation has ratcheted up since last year, when Trump withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled its economy.
Trump wants an agreement that goes beyond the 2015 nuclear deal and would further curb Iran’s atomic program, restrict its ballistic missile work and end its support for proxy forces in the Middle East.
“If you wish more, if you require more, you should give and pay more,” Rouhani said, without giving details.
In his U.N. speech on Tuesday, Trump accused Iranian leaders of “bloodlust” and called on other nations to put pressure on Iran after Sept. 14 attacks on Saudi oil facilities that Washington blames on Tehran despite its denials.
The United States plans to increase its military presence in Saudi Arabia following the attacks.
Rouhani, however, warned world leaders that the Gulf region is “on the edge of collapse, as a single blunder can fuel a big fire.”
“We shall not tolerate the provocative intervention of foreigners. We shall respond decisively and strongly to any sort of transgression to and violation of our security and territorial integrity,” Rouhani said in his speech.
Trump had said there was still a path to peace and Rouhani, the nuclear pact’s architect, has left the door open to diplomacy, saying that if sanctions were lifted, Washington could join nuclear talks between Tehran and other powers.
NO TRUMP-ROUHANI MEETING SEEN
Despite the French and British leaders urging Rouhani to meet Trump, an Iranian official told Reuters there was no chance that the U.S. and Iranian presidents would meet while they are in New York for this week’s annual gathering of world leaders.
“The chances of a meeting are zero. They know what to do. They should return to the JCPOA, lift sanctions and end this unfair maximum pressure on Iran,” the official said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) 2015 deal.
“Then of course they can join the talks under the deal,” the official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, added.
Since abandoning the nuclear deal last year, Trump in May dramatically tightened sanctions on Iran in an effort to reduce its oil exports – its main source of foreign exchange and government revenues – to zero.
While it originally respected the deal despite Trump’s withdrawal, Iran has gradually reduced its compliance and has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf, through which an estimated one-fifth of the world’s oil passes.
The United States has blamed Iran for a series of actions – some of which Iran has denied – that have roiled oil markets, including attacks on half a dozen tankers, shooting down a U.S. drone and the Sept. 14 attacks on Aramco facilities.
The shadow of war has lengthened after the air strikes on the heartland of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry, which included damage to the world’s biggest petroleum-processing facility, knocking out more than 5% of global oil supply.
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir said Riyadh was consulting “with friends and allies about the next steps to take” once an investigation into who was responsible for the attack was complete.
The United States, European powers and Saudi Arabia have blamed the attack on Iran, instead of the Yemeni Iran-aligned Houthi group that claimed responsibility. Iran distanced itself from the attacks, but said it was ready for “full-fledged” war.
The confrontation could tip the balance of power in Iran in favor of hard-liners looking to constrain Rouhani’s ability to open up to the West, particularly because Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s aversion to Washington remains a formidable barrier to any diplomatic solution.
After a meeting of parties still in the 2015 deal, even Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief who is one of its strongest boosters, sounded downcast about the chances of getting Iran comply with the pact after the U.S. withdrawal.
“I believe – I don’t believe – I hope that rationality will prevail,” she said.
Rouhani himself did not close the door to talks and his speech’s penultimate sentence raised the possibility.
“This is the message of the Iranian nation: Let’s invest on hope toward a better future rather than in war and violence. Let’s return to justice; to peace; to law, commitment and promise and finally to the negotiating table,” he said.