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Zarif Sets Conditions For U.S. Return To Nuclear Deal In Sputnik Interview

RUSSIA -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in Moscow, September 24, 2020

The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has set "conditions" for the United States to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

"The return of the United States to the nuclear deal is the first step that they should take. For this return, [the U.S.] must compensate for damage it caused to the Iranian nation, as well as for measures taken by the US to undermine the nuclear deal and promise not to do it again," Zarif told Russian news outlet Sputnik.

U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal on May 8, 2018, and reimposed batches of devastating economic sanctions on Iran.

While the White House has shown no inclination to return to the deal, Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, has said that if he is elected, and Iran respected all its obligations under the JCPOA, he would join the agreement.

Zarif, seemingly in response to Biden's remarks on the JCPOA, claimed that Iran "does not care who is in the White House" and has focused its attention on "American policy."

Iran's permanent envoy to the UN, Majid Takht Ravanchi, echoed Zarif's comments, demanding "compensation" before accepting the US' return to the JCPOA.

Ravanchi told the BBC that the US should officially commit not to withdrawing from the JCPOA before returning to the accord.

The accord has been close to collapse since 2018 when Trump dropped out as he had promised during his presidential campaign.

Responding to the US sanctions' re-imposition, Iran has gradually suspended some of its obligations under the JCPOA, including the limit set for uranium enrichment and storage. On that basis, regardless of Biden's conditions for returning to the JCPOA, the European parties in the nuclear deal believe that Iran's continuation of uranium enrichment in Iran violates the accord.

Zarif also offered a prisoner exchange between Tehran and Washington, saying, "Iran is ready to exchange prisoners with dual citizenship who are being held in the country for Iranian prisoners held in the US--Iran has no American prisoners with single citizenship." He added that Iran was not yet ready for direct negotiations with the US government and would be using other governments, such as the Swiss, "that wish to play a positive role in this regard" as an intermediary.

The issue of prisoner exchanges between Iran and the United States has also been raised in recent months. In the latest incident, on June 8, Florida-based Iranian physician, Majid Taheri, who was jailed in the United States for violating sanctions, was released and returned to Iran.

His release came after an American citizen imprisoned in Iran for two years, Michael White, returned to the United States on June 4.

Two days before White's release, a professor at the Sharif University of Technology, Cyrus Asgari, was released in the United States.

In recent months, US government officials have demanded the release of Iranian-Americans, including an environmentalist, Morad Tahbaz as well as a Dubai-based businessman, Siamak Namazi, and his octogenarian father, Baquer.