Iran says sanctions must end before Trump meeting

Iran has demanded an end to sanctions before considering a meeting between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and US President Donald Trump.

What happened: Rouhani responded directly to Trump’s suggestion of talks, saying: “Without the US’s withdrawal from sanctions, we will not witness any positive development.”

  • Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met on Tuesday with Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono, who urged Iran to abide by the JCPOA nuclear deal. In June, an attack on a Japanese-owned oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz was blamed on Iran by the US. Foreign Office Minister Andrew Murrison MP told The National during a visit to the UAE that he is confident the Royal Navy will be able to safeguard shipping through the Strait of Hormuz. Iranian forces are still holding the UK flagged oil tanker Stena Impero and its crew that were seized in July.
  • In a related development Zarif said Iran will announce the third phase of breaking the limits of the JCPOA Iran nuclear deal on 6 September, but he added that: “Iran would reconsider its decision if it reaches an agreement with Europe, and the European side starts implementing it.”

What does this mean? Iran broke the terms of the JCPOA nuclear deal in July when it expanded its stockpile of low-enriched uranium about 60-70kg beyond the 300kg limit and restarted the Arak heavy water reactor. It also started enriching uranium above the 3.67 per cent limit set out in the agreement to 4.5 per cent. A nuclear weapon requires around 50kg of 90 per cent enriched uranium. The Tehran Times reports that the next steps could include the installation of more advanced centrifuges to create more enriched uranium.

What happens next? Iran announced its limited violations of the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal just over a year after the US withdrew from the deal. It said this was in retaliation to the US violation of the deal but it was also intended to put pressure on the UK, France and Germany to do more to facilitate trade with Iran and bypass US sanctions that are hurting the Iranian economy and have drastically reduced Iranian oil sales.

  • Iranian oil sales for the month of July were approximately 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) according to industry sources quoted in Reuters, less than half the figure for June. In April 2018, the month before the US withdrew from the JCPOA, Iran exported more than 2.5m bpd.
  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the Iranian economy to shrink by 6 per cent in 2019.

Presidents Trump and Macron appeared to indicate at last weekend’s G7 that the tone towards talks, and away from naval tensions in the Gulf, has shifted considerably, but Iran is still trying to demonstrate it can keep the pressure up on the US and the Europeans by slowly eroding the restrictions on its nuclear programme.

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