Iran Negotiator: Ballistic Missile Program Off the Table in Nuclear Negotiations
Iran’s ballistic missile program will not be included in discussions with world powers on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said in statements published Monday, according to AFP.
“Iran’s defense-related issues are not up for negotiations,” Araqchi said, according to Iranian media reports cited by AFP. “We will not discuss any issue other than the nuclear dossier in the negotiations. The defense-related issues are a red line for Iran. We will not allow such issues to be discussed in future talks.”
The comments from Araqchi, Iran’s lead negotiator in talks with world powers, a week before negotiations are to resume on a comprehensive accord over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, were in direct opposition to testimony from the State Department’s Wendy Sherman, the lead U.S. negotiator, who told a Senate hearing last week that Iran’s ballistic missile program would be addressed in the comprehensive deal.
The talks, resuming on February 18 in Vienna, aim to verify Tehran’s claims that its nuclear program is peaceful through frequent inspections. In exchange for moving forward with a preliminary treaty, agreed to in November, the U.S. lifted many of its economic sanctions against Iran.
Israel, which Iran could target with its arsenal of long-range missiles with a maximum range of 1,200 miles, fears the Islamic Republic may be true to its word, not what it tells the U.S., but what its political and religious leaders continually broadcast within the country.
Last week, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was asked by the Iranian Parliament to clarify comments he made in an interview on German TV implying that Iran could one day recognize Israel, in the context of a successful peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority. Through a spokesman, Zarif denied what had been reported, claiming a poor translation.
MP Ghasem Jafari, who called on Zarif to clarify his comments in the parliament, said, “Zarif’s remarks are inconsistent with the principles upheld by the system, since Imam Khomeini (RA) believed that the Zionist regime was a malign tumor and the Leader believed it as ‘bastard.'”
“The Islamic Republic has expended great sums so that the Zionist regime would not be recognized,” Jafari told Iranian media.