US to seek in-person meetings with Iran over prisoner releases

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The United States would like a in-person meeting with Iran to discuss prisoner releases and it wants the UN Security Council to impose an indefinite arms embargo on the Islamic Republic, a senior US diplomat said on Tuesday.

The two adversaries disagree on many issues, including US President Donald Trump’s decision two years ago to abandon the 2015 Iran nuclear deal under which Tehran limited its nuclear programme in return for economic sanctions relief.

Trump has since restored US sanctions that have choked Iran’s oil exports, the country’s main source of revenue, while Iran has accelerated its nuclear programme. Washington believes Iran may seek a nuclear weapon, something Tehran denies.

Despite the tensions, the two sides struck a deal under which Iran on June 4 freed a US Navy veteran it had imprisoned since 2018 and the US allowed an Iranian-American physician to visit Iran.

Speaking at a virtual event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said he hoped for further prisoner exchanges and talks on a wide array of issues.

Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook: The Iranian regime’s threats are designed to intimidate nations into accepting Iran’s usual violent behavior for fear of something worse. We refuse to play by Iran’s rules. https://t.co/zMKQdtgHK2 pic.twitter.com/DGffzM3VKT

— Department of State (@StateDept) June 16, 2020

Tehran has been reluctant to deal with officials in Washington since the Trump administration abandoned the nuclear agreement, demanding the US return to it.

“We’d love to have an in person meeting to have a consular dialogue so that we can move faster than we have,” Hook said.

“The door for diplomacy on our side is wide open, not just on these matters but on … all the issues that have been bedevilling the US-Iran bilateral relations for 41 years,” he said, saying Trump “would like to get to the negotiating table”.

He also said the administration, which criticises Tehran for backing proxies in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen, believes a UN arms embargo on Iran expiring in October should be extended indefinitely.

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