IP- "Since the United States is violating international law, the best role that Japan can play is to show Americans that Japan will not implement their illegal decisions," Iran's foreign minister said.

Iran press/ Asia:  In an interview with Kyodo News, Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he hopes Japan and the European Union will persuade newly inaugurated U.S. President Joe Biden to lift crippling economic sanctions imposed on Tehran, by his predecessor Donald Trump.

Calling Japan an old friend of Iran and noting its good relations with the United States, he said, "We expect Japan to act as a friend, particularly when it comes to international law" -- suggesting that sanctions reimposed after Washington left the landmark nuclear deal in 2018 are illegal.

"Since the United States is violating international law, the best role that Japan can play is to show Americans that Japan will not implement their illegal decisions," he said.

Zarif specifically called on Japan to unfreeze Iranian assets frozen in Japanese banks due to U.S. sanctions, as a gesture to Iran by the new government of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who came to power last September.

According to Zarif, frozen assets in Japan and South Korea total close to $10 billion. Japan's share -- the primary revenue from crude oil exports to Japan -- is estimated to be just under $3 billion.

He said the unfrozen funds could be used to procure medicines and food, including vaccines for the novel coronavirus.

On the European Union role, Zarif stressed EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell's responsibility to sequence a restoration of compliance with the nuclear accord by Washington and Tehran.

"Mr. Borrell can specify the time frame in consultation with Iran and the United States. It is clear the United States has to take steps first," Zarif said.

"When Washington takes its steps, and we see the outcome, we can immediately take (steps) ourselves, and it is up to Borrell to choreograph these steps," he said.

About Iran's ballistic missile program, Zarif said the deal could not be renegotiated.

He warned the window of opportunity to resolve the impasse will soon close as Iran's parliament has set Feb. 21 as the day to end nuclear watchdog inspections beyond the country's obligations under its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"A law has been passed by parliament. That law has to be implemented," he said while pressing Biden's team to decide soon whether to return to the nuclear deal with Iran or continue Trump's legacy by not quickly lifting sanctions.

After that window closes, Zarif said, Iran will produce more enriched uranium and further promote its nuclear development.

Zarif called that a natural outcome of Trump's failed "maximum pressure" policy on Iran and added, "If President Biden wants to continue the same legacy, he will not be able to produce miracles."

Zarif also expressed his willingness to meet with senior Japanese government officials, saying, "They can raise whatever they want to raise with me, and I will respond to them based on Iranian policy and based on the long-standing friendship between Iran and Japan."


Read More:

Deputy FM: We negotiated based on pessimism

Iran to stop implementation of Additional Protocol if JCPOA fails: Spox