The United States is willing to hold unconditional talks with Iran to ease tensions between the two countries, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday, but Tehran held out little hope for new negotiations.
“We are prepared to engage in a conversation with no preconditions. We are ready to sit down with them,” Pompeo said at a news conference in Switzerland. But the top U.S. diplomat added that “the American effort to fundamentally reverse the malign activity of this Islamic Republic, this revolutionary force, is going to continue.”
He said the U.S. is “certainly prepared to have that conversation when the Iranians can prove that they want to behave like a normal nation.”
But Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview on the ABC News network in the U.S., that new talks with Washington are “not very likely.”
Zarif added, “Talking is the continuation of the process of pressure… this may work in a real estate market. It does not work in dealing with Iran.”
He called past talks with the United States, in which the U.S. agreed to the 2015 international pact to curb Tehran’s ambitions only to have President Donald Trump abrogate it, were “not very optimistic and does not provide an optimistic perspective for a future deal.”
He contended, “People think twice before they talk to the United States because they know what they agree to today may not hold tomorrow.”
Any possibility of talks between the two countries comes after a series of provocations. After pulling out of the international nuclear deal, Trump subsequently reimposed U.S. economic sanctions in an effort to end Iranian oil exports to the global market, a financial lifeline for the Islamic republic.
The U.S. has often objected to Iranian missile tests and its military aggressions in the Middle East, while Iran has protested the crippling U.S. sanctions.
Pompeo last year listed 12 actions he said Iran must adopt before the U.S. would end the sanctions, including “stopping its support for proxy groups and halting its missile program.”
Pompeo also called on Iran to end uranium enrichment, never to pursue plutonium reprocessing and to close its heavy water reactor. He said Tehran also had to disclose all previous military dimensions of its nuclear program and to permanently and verifiably abandon such work.
Despite the U.S. protests against Tehran’s nuclear program, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear monitoring agency, says that Iran is continuing to comply with the 2015 nuclear deal. Even as Trump pulled the U.S. out of the pact, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China have remained in the agreement.
In its latest quarterly report on Friday, the IAEA said Iran has stayed within key limitations spelled out in the agreement although its stockpiles of low-enriched uranium and heavy water are growing. Iran last month said it would boost its enrichment of uranium beyond levels imposed by the international agreement if it could not within 60 days find a way to protect itself from the U.S. sanctions.
Pompeo on Saturday participated in the four-day gathering of European and North American elites, known as the Bilderburg Group. Some of the political, business, defense and intelligence officials at the gathering