Tehran, Iran – Iran may set a legal deadline for deadlocked talks aimed at restoring its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, the country’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has suggested to Al Jazeera in an exclusive interview.
The move could happen through the parliament as some politicians in Tehran are growing increasingly impatient with the unending talks, Amirabdollahian.
“In the parliament, there is this idea that the government should not perennially be in a path of negotiations to bring all parties back to the JCPOA,” he said referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the accord that the United States unilaterally abandoned in 2018.
According to Amirabdollahian, some factions of Iran’s parliament are pushing for proposals and legislation that could make the government’s work “more difficult” in continuing the talks.
“The window of the talks to return to the JCPOA won’t remain open forever,” he said.
The last time Iran’s conservative parliament passed legislation concerning the nuclear deal was in late 2020 when it set a deadline for US sanctions to be removed. When that did not happen, the administration of the centrist former president, Hassan Rouhani ramped up uranium enrichment and limit nuclear inspections.
The administration of President Ebrahim Raisi is politically much closer and unified with the parliament, and both have repeatedly blamed Washington for the lack of results in talks that began almost two years ago.
The talks have effectively been in limbo since last September when Tehran and the Western parties to the accord accused each other of bad faith in the negotiations.
The US and the European Union have since imposed many rounds of additional sanctions on Iran for its response to nationwide protests, and for Tehran allegedly supplying Russia with armed drones for the war in Ukraine. Tehran has denied providing Russia weapons for use in Ukraine.
Amirabdollahian reiterated Tehran’s position that Western allies have been behind “riots” in the country in the past few months, which he also blamed for hindering the talks.
“We are now at a point where achieving an agreement can be within reach, on the condition that the American side acts realistically,” he said.
According to the foreign minister, technical talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are continuing and Tehran plans to maintain cooperation with the global nuclear watchdog. Neither side has provided concrete details on the talks.
On exchanging prisoners with the US, Amirabdollahian said, “We haven’t tied it to the JCPOA but there are technical issues that I hope lead to results.”
‘New atmosphere of dialogue’
Despite the deadlock over the nuclear deal, Iran is moving ahead with efforts to improve its ties with regional rival Saudi Arabia and potentially other Arab states.
China brokered an agreement between Tehran and Riyadh earlier this month. The agreement committed their foreign ministries to reopen diplomatic missions within two months. Amirabdollahian and his Saudi counterpart, Faisal bin Farhan, are expected to meet before the end of Ramadan in late April to finalise the deal.
The kingdom has also invited the Iranian president for a state visit, which he welcomed. Iran also plans to extend an invitation to the Saudi rulers, Amirabdollahian said.
“We believe returning Tehran and Riyadh’s relations to a normal state will not only benefit both countries and nations, it will also benefit the region,” he said.
Tehran’s efforts have not been limited to Saudi Arabia, as it is also working on improving relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Iran and Bahrain have been relaying messages through Oman, Amirabdollahian said, and were in the process of sending delegations to visit embassies and discuss prospects of normalising diplomatic relations.
The foreign minister also held talks with the leaders of Jordan and Egypt during an Iraq-focused conference in December and expressed willingness to hold more talks.
“Fast developments are taking place across the region. Perhaps 10 years ago, there were crises happening fast in the region, in a way that political solutions had fallen behind,” Amirabdollahian said.
“But now, the region is nearing a higher understanding of the realities, and international developments and the region’s better understanding of them are encouraging everyone to focus on dialogue, peace and security across the region. Now, there is a new atmosphere of dialogue and cooperation facing the region.”