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Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif has emphasized that US sanctions will never bring Iran to the negotiating table, rather they will strengthen Iran's resolve to resist US pressure.

Foreign Minister Zarif in an interview with The Guardian on Monday said the Islamic Republic will not only survive newly reimposed US sanctions but will actually thrive and strengthen as a result of the sanctions.

The Trump administration announced sanctions this month covering banking, oil exports and shipping, aimed at forcing Tehran to stop what the US described as its “destabilising activities” in the Middle East.

Speaking after meeting the British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, in Tehran on Monday, Javad Zarif said: “We are used to pressure and we are used to resisting pressure. Sanctions always hurt and they hurt ordinary people, but sanctions seldom change policy, and that has been the problem with US sanctions all the time. They do not force us back to the negotiating table. In fact, they strengthen our resolve to resist.

“We will certainly survive. We will not only survive – we will thrive. We have tried to minimise the impact on the population but ordinary people are going to suffer, the economy is going to suffer.”

Speaking to The Guardian, Zarif said he was confident the Iranian oil industry would find markets, even though the US measures have pushed down exports sharply. “There are always markets for oil, it depends on the conditions and the price,” he said. “I believe Iran will always be able to sell its oil.”

Zarif also challenged claims by the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, that the sanctions had been designed to exempt humanitarian supplies, such as food and medicines.

“The US has imposed financial sanctions on Iran,” he said. "When you want to transfer money, the bank does not ask whether it is for food or other essential items – that is why sanctions always affect items such as foodstuffs and medicines."

“The US is not living up to its promises. We believe all sanctions are unlawful, and against UN security council resolutions, but the US is not even truthful to the commitment they have made.”

Zarif said Iran was frustrated by the slow pace of EU moves to help European companies that want to do business with Iran.

A clearing house known as a special purpose vehicle, designed to allow European companies that trade with Iran to bypass the sanctions, is due to be set up within the next few months. It has been seen as critical to reassuring Tehran that the EU wishes to reward Iran for signing the 2015 deal on its nuclear programme by expanding business deals with the country.

“What is important is that Europe has made the political commitment but, unfortunately, so far as practicalities are concerned, it has been very slow,” Zarif said. “(British foreign secretary Jeremy) Hunt reassured me that the UK believes in the nuclear deal, but we also need to see some action.”

On Yemen, where US has accused Iran of backing Houthi rebels, Zarif said Iran had been pushing for a ceasefire arrangement for years, and believes there is no military solution to the conflict.

“The humanitarian nightmare cannot continue,” he said. “All the Yeminis are prepared to come to the negotiating table provided the [Saudi-led] coalition enables them to do so.”


US sanctions negotiating table
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