Official Hints at Link between Fresh Anti-Iran Sanctions, Halt to Vienna Talks

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – An informed source in Iran’s foreign ministry said he could not rule out a link between an unexpected interruption in Iran-Sextet expert-level talks in Vienna and the US decision to slap sanctions on companies and individuals accused of helping Iran evade economic sanctions.

Official Hints at Link between Fresh Anti-Iran Sanctions, Halt to Vienna Talks

Expert-level talks between representatives from Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany came to a halt in the Austrian capital of Vienna on Thursday after the US Treasury Department on issued new sanctions against more than a dozen companies and individuals for allegedly evading US sanctions against Iran.

A well-informed Iranian official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said there could be a link between the two recent events, noting that the nuclear talks would probably resume at the level of higher-ranking officials in order to “retain the ongoing trend of negotiations.”

Given the US violation of part of the Geneva accord, senior officials including Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton need to maintain the status quo by resuming the talks, the unnamed official explained.

The US Treasury Department said it was freezing assets and banning transactions of entities that attempt to evade the sanctions against Iran. The decision to penalize those companies and individuals for conducting prohibited business with Iran came just before the administration implored Congress once more not to impose any new sanctions on Tehran.

While there were some reports that the Iranian negotiators quit the implementation talks after Washington blacklisted the companies and individuals for evading US sanctions, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the G5+1 in the talks, said that both sides had headed home for consultations and that the talks would resume soon.

"After four days of lengthy and detailed talks, reflecting the complexity of the technical issues discussed, it became clear that further work is needed," Michael Mann said. "There will now be consultations in capitals, in the expectation that technical talks will continue soon," he added.

Under the Geneva deal of November 24, the G5+1 -- the US, Russia, Britain, France, China and Germany -- agreed to suspend some of the sanctions against Tehran and to impose no new nuclear-related ones in exchange for Iran's decision to freeze parts of its nuclear activities and to allow more inspections of its nuclear facilities.

But senior administration officials argue that Thursday's blacklistings were carried out within the framework of the existing sanctions regime and did not constitute new measures.

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi slams the new US sanctions targeting Iran, saying the bans went against the spirit of the recent nuclear deal reached between Tehran and six major world powers.

"America's move is against the spirit of the Geneva deal... We are evaluating the situation and will make the appropriate response," he said on Friday.

Meanwhile, Russian foreign ministry has warned that fresh sanctions against Iran can jeopardize implementation of Tehran’s nuclear deal with the world powers.

“Widening American 'blacklists' could seriously complicate the fulfillment of the Geneva agreement, which proposes easing the sanctions regime," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Maria Zakharova, said in a Friday statement.

"Washington's actions do not help improve confidence between the negotiating parties or reach a comprehensive agreement aimed at resolving problems related to Iran's nuclear program by fully ensuring its rights granted by the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)," she added.

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