Mohammad Javad Zarif
Mohammad Javad Zarif Reuters

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that his country’s response to the sanctions imposed on it by the United States will come as a “surprise” to President Donald Trump.

Zarif made the comment in an interview with the Swiss newspaper Basler Zeitungpublished in response to a question on Washington’s efforts to cut down Iran’s oil exports.

He said the effort to exclude Iran from the global oil market is unrealistic, adding that if “our customers decide to bow to American pressure, we have other means.”

Asked to elaborate on those means, Zarif replied, “Trump loves the element of surprise, so we will entertain him.”

Trump pulled out of the deal in May of 2018, and has since then imposed two rounds of sanctions against Iran.

Iran, angry over the US withdrawal from the deal, has threatened several times that it will begin uranium enrichment beyond previous levels if the remaining parties fail to uphold the 2015 nuclear deal.

Meanwhile, Germany, France and Britain, which did not agree with Trump’s decision to leave the deal, have been scrambling to prevent a collapse of the agreement.

The EU recently introduced a trade mechanism that would bypass US sanctions on Iran, in a bid to save the 2015 deal.

Zarif talked about the EU trade mechanism, called INSTEX, saying it is not one of the commitments that the sides to the nuclear agreement were supposed to implement.

“When the US withdrew from the nuclear agreement, the other sides entered into a series of commitments, which included twelve points. This financial mechanism is not one of them, it is only a prerequisite for the implementation of the promises. The nuclear agreement provides for the normalization of economic relations. A barter trading system like INSTEX is not normalization – it’s rather the opposite,” said the Iranian Foreign Minister.

“We are ready to live with it, because we do not want to ask too much from our partners in Europe. But INSTEX is, firstly, not yet in operation; secondly the construction took nine months. And thirdly, there must be money in there - money will only be there when there is trade, oil deals, investment in Iran. That's what's needed,” he added.

Asked about how long Iran would remain in the deal despite the undesirable conditions, Zarif said it depends on the will of the Iranian population. He cited a recent poll which showed that 51% of Iranian people supported the country's decision to stay in the agreement and said, “We cannot rule against the will of the people.”

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