Iran has offered a deal with the US in which it would formally and permanently accept enhanced inspections of its nuclear programme, in return for the permanent lifting of US sanctions.
The offer was made by the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on a visit to New York. But it is unlikely to be warmly received by the Trump administration, which is currently demanding Iran make a range of sweeping concessions, including cessation of uranium enrichment and support for proxies and allies in the region.
Zarif insisted, however, that his offer was “a substantial move”.
“It’s not about photo ops. We are interested in substance,” he told reporters at the Iranian mission to the UN in New York on Thursday. “There are other substantial moves that can be made.”
He said: “If they [the Trump administration] are putting their money where their mouth is, they are going to do it. They don’t need a photo op. They don’t need a two-page document with a big signature.”
Iran has faced an steadily tightening US-driven oil embargo and severe banking sanctions since May last year, when Donald Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal with Iran known as the Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action (JCPOA).
The embargo has triggered a standoff in the Gulf that has escalated dramatically in recent months:on Thursday, Trump said a US warship, the USS Boxer, had shot down an Iranian drone that had come within a kilometre of the vessel.
“The drone was immediately destroyed,” the president said. “This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters. The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, facilities, and interests.”
Earlier in the day, Iran said it had seized a foreign-owned vessel suspected of being used for oil smuggling out of Iran.
Zarif dismissed the seizure as a routine marine policing matter.
He said: “It’s not a tanker. It’s a small ship carrying a million litres, not a million barrels, of oil. We do it every other day. These are people who are smuggling our fuel. This is … one of the things that we do in the Persian Gulf, because of the heavy subsidies that we provide for our own fuel products.”
Zarif credited Trump with “prudence” for calling off missile attacks last month in reprisal for the downing of a US surveillance drone, and said that gave him confidence that diplomatic progress is possible.
He said: “I believe we were few minutes away from a war. Prudence prevailed and we’re not fighting. So that gives reason for us to be optimists. If we work, if we are serious, then we can find a way forward.”
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