Iran wants a “win-win” outcome in its talks with world powers over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program, the country’s foreign minister said Monday, warning that the only other choice is confrontation.
Three rounds of nuclear negotiations between Iran and six world powers have failed to produce a breakthrough. A low-level meeting of technical experts is scheduled for Tuesday in Istanbul to see whether there is enough common ground to return to full-fledged talks.
“We want to see a win-win outcome,” Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told the semiofficial ISNA news agency on the eve of the discussions in Turkey.
“In the talks, the other side has no choice but to find an agreement, otherwise confrontation will be the alternative. I don’t think that common sense is looking for a confrontation,” he said.
Iran is locked in a tense standoff with the West over its nuclear program, which the Islamic Republic insists is purely for civilian purposes, such as producing energy and medical isotopes.
The U.S., Israel and other countries suspect the program is instead a cover for building nuclear weapons. Israel has accused Iran of stretching out the talks to move closer to the ability to make an atomic bomb, and it has threatened to attack Iran as a last resort.
Salehi said Iran prefers diplomacy to conflict, but stressed that it is prepared for anything.
“We are looking for a deal and not a confrontation, but if they [world powers] want to react unwisely, they should know that Iran will firmly defend its rights as it did during the Iran-Iraq war” in the 1980s, the Iranian foreign minister said.
The U.S. and EU have imposed several rounds of sanctions to pressure Iran to give up it uranium enrichment program. An EU ban Sunday on the purchase of Iranian oil took effect, days after new U.S. sanctions prohibited the world’s banks from completing oil transactions with Iranian banks.
Iran acknowledged that the measures were taking a toll, saying it has stockpiled goods and hard currency to help cushion the economy.
The Islamic Republic initially responded to the sanctions by threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz, the strategic waterway through which about one-fifth of the world’s oil is shipped. Officials appeared Sunday to back off from that threat, which roiled international oil markets at the time.
But the Iranian parliament’s committee on national security and foreign policy drafted a bill calling for Tehran to block the strait to tankers shipping oil to countries that support the sanctions, a lawmaker said Monday.
Ebrahim Agha Mohammadi, who is a committee member, told the official IRNA news agency that the bill will soon be discussed in parliament, and said that some 100 lawmakers have already expressed their support for the draft legislation.
“This project is a response to the oil sanctions imposed by the European Union on the Islamic Republic,” Mohammadi said.
“In line with this draft law, the government has the right to stop the transit of tankers [through Hormuz] carrying oil to countries which have imposed oil sanctions on Iran,” Mohammadi added.
The International Energy Agency said Iran crude exports in May appear to have slipped to 1.5 million barrels per day (mbpd) as the market braced for the embargo, which has been phased in since being announced on Jan. 23.
That is far less than the 2.1-2.2 mbpd Iran insists it still sells abroad.
Meanwhile, Iran resumed the flow of natural gas to Turkey Monday, the semiofficial Mehr news agency reported, after an explosion last week damaged part of the pipeline connecting the two countries and cut off supply.
“The export of Iran’s natural gas to Turkey resumed a few minutes ago after a request by Turkey and after the damaged pipeline was repaired,” Mehr reported.
Iran is Turkey’s second-largest gas supplier after Russia, supplying around 10 billion cubic meters of gas per year.
Sabotage is common on pipelines leading into Turkey from Iran and Iraq, where Kurdish separatist militants are based.
Iranian security forces have regularly fought rebels from PJAK, which also has bases in the border provinces of neighboring Iraq.
PJAK is an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party, which took up arms in 1984 to fight for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey. Both Iran and U.S. have called PJAK a terrorist organization.