TEHRAN (Tasnim) – US Secretary of State John Kerry in a letter to his Iranian counterpart gave an assurance that Washington will remain committed to a July nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers, after Iran voiced concern that new changes to a US Visa Waiver Program may stifle the deal.
In his letter to Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Kerry underscored Washington’s commitment to carrying out its undertakings and terminating the anti-Iran sanctions as soon as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) takes effect.
“Thanks for a constructive meeting yesterday,” Kerry wrote. “I wanted to get back to you in response to your inquiry about amendments to our Visa Waiver Program. First, I want to confirm to you that we remain fully committed to the sanctions lifting provided for under the JCPOA. We will adhere to the full measure of our commitments, per the agreement. Our team is working hard to be prepared and as soon as we reach implementation day we will lift appropriate sanctions.
“I am also confident that the recent changes in visa requirements passed in Congress, which the Administration has the authority to waive, will not in any way prevent us from meeting our JCPOA commitments, and that we will implement them so as not to interfere with legitimate business interests of Iran. To this end, we have a number of potential tools available to us, including multiple entry ten-year business visas, programs for expediting business visas, and the waiver authority provided under the new legislation. I am happy to discuss this further and provide any additional clarification.”
Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari said Sunday that Kerry has assured Iran of a range of tools that the Obama administration can employ to make sure that the new law will not damage Iran’s economic interests.
He further noted that “very tight negotiations” among nuclear experts from Iran and the Group 5+1 (Russia, China, the US, Britain, France and Germany) are still underway in Vienna, saying good progress has been made in recent days for the conclusion of the final steps prior to JCPOA implementation.
John Kerry’s letter came after Foreign Minister Zarif chided US for sending “mixed signals… mostly negative”, by introducing the Visa Waiver Program restrictions.
According to the bill, which was passed in the US House by 407 to 19 on December 8, visitors from the 38 “visa waiver” countries will need to obtain a visa to travel to the US if they have been to Syria, Iraq, Iran or Sudan in the past five years.
It means citizens of many EU countries and the rest of the 38 states participating in the program who travel to Iran either for business or visiting the country’s attractions will have to obtain a visa should they ever want to enter the US.
On Friday, US lawmakers sent Obama a huge tax and spending package, which also included reforms of the US visa waiver program. The president quickly signed it into law before leaving Washington for his annual holiday vacation.
The decision comes ahead of implementation of the JCPOA.
The final nuclear deal, known as a big confidence-building step in relations between Iran and the West, is going to terminate all nuclear-related sanctions against Tehran after coming into force.