OSLO, Norway (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met his Iranian foreign minister in Norway on Wednesday to once again discuss Iran’s complaints that it’s not getting the sanctions relief it deserves under last year’s landmark nuclear deal.
Kerry’s meeting with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Oslo came just a day after Iran’s supreme leader accused the U.S. of not living up to its commitment to ease sanctions under the agreement that gave Iran the relief in exchange for curbing its nuclear program.
“The two discussed progress on the continuing implementation of the (nuclear deal), including issues related to banking and relief of nuclear-related sanctions,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a brief statement after the 70-minute closed-door talks in a downtown Oslo hotel.
U.S. officials say the sanctions have been eased and that Iran’s complaints are due to foreign firms’ wariness to do business with the country for other reasons, including ballistic missile testing, support for Syria’s government and anti-Israel groups, and poor banking regulations.
Toner added that Kerry and Zarif had also discussed Syria, in which Kerry stressed the urgency of Iran pressing the Syrian government to implement “full access for humanitarian aid and a nationwide Cessation of Hostilities.”
On Tuesday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Iran has fulfilled its obligations under the agreement but that the U.S. was dragging its feet on lifting sanctions in the banking and insurance sectors, and on unfreezing Iranian assets. “The Americans have not carried out an important part of their commitments,” he said. He also reiterated his opposition to a wider rapprochement with the U.S. and other Western nations, saying they remain hostile toward Iran. And, he said that if the next U.S. president tears up the nuclear deal, Iran will “light it on fire.”
Meanwhile, Zarif, who was already in Oslo, said “psychological remnants” of the previous sanctions regime were preventing European and Asian banks from conducting legitimate business with Iran.
In response, State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington that the U.S. was going out of its way to clarify what is now allowed. He said any “psychological remnants” hindering legal business with Iran are related to Iranian behavior.
“The United States is not standing in the way, nor will we stand in the way, of business that can be legitimately done and permitted with Iran since the (nuclear deal) took effect,” he said. “What might help lift some of the psychological remnants, to use that phrase, would be Iran’s ceasing the destabilizing activities that they continue to carry out — their support for terrorism — which they continue to foster.”
“What makes business nervous, what makes business reticent isn’t some lack of education or effort by the United States, but when they see missiles being shipped to Hezbollah, missiles being fired at U.S. aircraft carriers, and support to terrorist groups,” Kirby said. “That’s what makes business nervous. Those are the psychological remnants which need to be lifted.”
Kirby would not discuss reports from Iran that U.S. aviation giant Boeing had signed a deal to sell planes to the country’s main airline.
After meeting Zarif in Oslo, Kerry is to address a conflict resolution forum and then meet Norwegian officials before visiting an Arctic research station on Wednesday. He will then travel to Denmark and Greenland.