Zarif: Iran made no offer to US for talks

IRNA – Iranian Foreign Minister said that Iran has made no offer to US for talks and gave response to their suggestion of negotiations.

Mohammad Javad Zarif made the remarks in an exclusive interview with US media ‘CBS’, saying ‘We responded- we responded to the offer that they had actually made to engage and we are waiting for a reply.’

In response to a question whether the prisoner swap initiative has been presented by Iran, he said ‘Well, we’ve done it before.’

He added, ‘We had a possibility of getting the release of some Iranians who were in US jails or were under probation in the United States.’

‘We removed them from that circumstances and- and then some US-Iranians who were in jail in Iran were released,’ Zarif noted.

‘I think we can do it again. We- the administration- the previous administration was trying to engage in that,’ he said adding ‘the new administration initially showed interest. We made an offer in September that we are ready, and we are ready.’

Elaborating on a question raised by CBS on who Zarif means to be released, he said, ‘Well there are a number of Iranians who are in US jails for sanctions violations. There are a number of Iranians who are in jail all over the world. On pressure, on pressure,’ noting that Americans know themselves who we mean.

In reaction to CBS offer to Zarif on releasing some of the American prisoners to show Iran’s seriousness, Iranian Foreign Minister said: ‘We’re not supposed to show seriousness because we have shown our seriousness by implementing the nuclear deal.’

‘It’s the United States that needs to prove that it is serious,’ he reiterated.

Underlining Iran’s complying to its commitments, Zarif said, ‘We’re not linking the two [Iran nuclear deal and prisoner’s issue], it’s just the experience.’
‘We’ve shown that when we say something, we abide by it. The United States has shown that when we say- it- they say something they will – they will then decide whether they want to abide by it or not.’

In response to CBS reporter’s question regarding Iranian-American prisoner Baqer Namazi, Zarif said, ‘I am responsible for foreign policy. I’m not responsible for interfering in court’s decisions. I can intervene when there is an exchange, an offer of exchange. I cannot intervene as foreign minister.’

He added, ‘I can intervene as a private individual on humanitarian basis, and I do, I do. But as foreign minister, I do not have a standing in any Iranian court unless I can engage in an exchange with Iranians who are wrongfully, in our view, detained either inside the United States or elsewhere.’

‘We have people, we have- we have ladies who were pregnant when they were detained who gave birth in prison, who were not even given a released on bail to deliver outside prison. We have people with heart conditions. We have people with terminal cancer in there,’ he said.

‘It [prisoner swap] had nothing to do with the nuclear deal. It- I mean we did it because we were sitting together. We did a number of deeds, this was one of them, but it was just because we were willing to discuss this issue,’ Zarif said.

Rejecting CBS reporter’s question on holding talks with US Secretary of State on exchanging prisoners, Zarif noted ‘No, we- the- the US has a person responsible for this. We have a person responsible for this. If they are of the same rank they can- they can meet if they’re not of the same rank, we will appoint somebody of the- of the rank of the person who’s representing the United States.’

Elsewhere in his remarks, Iranian foreign minister denied receiving any letter from US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O’Brien.

Zarif said: ‘We’re willing to talk to anybody who’s willing to respect Iran and deal with this issue. We- we don’t have anything against Ambassador O’Brien, but we will not deal with the hostage negotiator unless they want us to appoint somebody as our hostage negotiator so that they discuss about Iranian hostages in US jail.’

For much of the interview, Zarif offered CBS reporter to stop talking on prisoners’ issue, saying ‘I have enough responsibility on my shoulders to prevent a war, to try to circumvent US attempts to prevent Iran from engaging in what is legally ours, and that is normal economic relations. So, I do this as a part of my job, as foreign minister to exchange people without attribution of guilt. Simply to make it possible for people to go back home.’

Commenting on the possibility of conflict between Iran and US, he said, ‘We do not want conflict, we do not want confrontation, but we haven’t survived 7000 years by escaping. We resist, but we are not seeking confrontation. We don’t believe that President Trump wants confrontation. But, we know that there are people who are pushing for one.’

Zarif went on to say: ‘US administration is putting things in place for accidents to happen. And there has to be extreme vigilance, so that people who are planning this type of accident would not have their way.’

Elaborating on team-B anti-Iran efforts, he said He [Netanyahu] has said that he pushed the United States to get out of JCPOA.’

‘Ambassador Bolton has said that we need to use the Trump presidency in order to deal with Iran. Bin Zayed and Bin Salman have been the two people who President Trump said promised to replace Iranian Oil,’ he added.

‘These people want confrontation,’ Zarif said urging the prudent people for the grown-ups to prevent confrontation.

Rejected feeling regret over denying holding talks between Iranian and US presidents earlier, Zarif said: ‘We cannot meet somebody who is not respectful, who has violated his country’s international obligations, who has withdrawn from agreements.’
‘You see, you meet for what? You don’t meet for a photo op. You meet in order to reach some sort of conclusion. But we have a conclusion.’

‘We have 100- I mean- I mean it’s not a photo op and a two page document. We have hundred and fifty pages of carefully negotiated agreement- not a bilateral agreement between Iran and the United States,’ Zarif said.

Elsewhere in his remarks Iranian foreign minister referred to US withdrawal from various international agreements, saying, ‘Well, there won’t be any point in having them meet unless the United States is willing to show that it is a reliable partner and it has failed to do so. Not just to Iran.’

When the CBS reporter compared Iran case with that of North Korea and urged Iran to speak directly with President Trump, Zarif said: ‘Well, we did speak directly to the United States. Whether the United States is led by President Trump or President Obama is not our choice, is the choice of the American people.’

‘We- we did have probably the longest discussion with a man, who was to the best of my knowledge the Secretary of State of the United States confirmed by the US Senate, appointed by a president elected by both popular, as well as, electoral vote,’ he added.

‘And this administration has decided to refuse the deal they made, Zarif said.

Commenting on the possibility of US rejoining to the nuclear deal, Iranian foreign minister said, ‘Well it’s a- it’s a negotiating table that is still there. We did not leave that negotiating table.’

‘The United States was the party that left the negotiating table. The rest of the U- the JCPOA participants are still there. It’s not automatic. I mean, the United States has harmed a lot of people,’ Zarif noted.

On lifting US arms embargo in October 2020, Zarif said: ‘It doesn’t mean that in October 2020, we will be buying 67 billion dollars worth of weapons that Saudi Arabia is buying. We don’t have that type of money. I mean last year we spent 16 billion dollars on our defense. Saudi Arabia only bought 67 billion dollars of weapons, United Arab Emirates, with an indigenous population of a million people, spent 22 billion dollars.’

Zarif also alluded to the reasons behind Iran developing missiles, saying, ‘we went through an eight years of war. Nobody sold us weapons.’

‘We have missiles because you didn’t give us any other means of defense. We could have bought weapons,’ he added.

Zarif went on to say: ‘We could have bought- bought fighter jets, but nobody gave it to- to us when we were attacked. So we developed our own and thankfully we don’t need much of foreign weapons.’

Expressing honor over the Iranian People Civilization of 7000 years, Zarif said, ‘the Iranian people, when pressured, do not respond with submission. They respond with resistance. And they want us to represent them with dignity, not with succumbing to pressure.’

Elsewhere in his remarks, Zarif referred to Iran’s efforts in fighting terrorism, saying ‘we have fought terrorism in- in Syria. We have fought terrorism in Iraq, and the US is saying that its objective is to fight Daesh- ISIS in- in Iraq.’