TEHRAN - Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told a press conference on Monday that while he was in New York the Americans told him that if he did not accept to go to the White House to meet President Donald Trump he will be sanctioned in two weeks. Zarif visited New York in mid-July to participate at the annual session of the UN Economic and Social Council (UNOSOC).
"In the trip to New York it was announced to me to accept the invitation of the White House for negotiations otherwise I would be sanctioned in two weeks," Zarif said, marking Press Day in Iran.
On Thursday, July 31, the United States declared sanctions on Zarif, a move which was interpreted as a declaration of sanctions on diplomacy, which the Trump administration repeatedly claims it wants with Tehran.
Zarif said the U.S. decided to sanction him when he revealed that the B-Team, among them White House national security advisor John Bolton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is trying to lure Trump into a war with Iran.
"The U.S. decided to sanction me when I introduced the B-Team," Zarif remarked.
However, Zarif said, he does not think that Trump is seeking war with Iran.
On whether it was necessary that the United State be a party to the negotiations that led to the conclusion of the JCPOA, the official name for the 2015 nuclear deal, Zarif said the involvement of the U.S. in the JCPOA was a "necessary evil" because the country is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and for lifting the UN sanctions it was necessary that it be included.
The chief diplomat also blamed the U.S. for fueling tension in the Persian Gulf.
The United States is seeking a maritime coalition to guard what it calls "safe shipping" in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.
"The United States is responsible for fueling fire in the Persian Gulf and it cannot be a firefighter," Zarif noted.
In another part of his statements, Zarif criticized the UK for assisting the United States in "economic terrorism" against Iran, saying, "The British government has been complicit in America's economic terrorism against Iran."
The Iranian top diplomat was referring to British naval forces' seizure of an Iranian-operated supertanker in the Strait of Gibraltar off Spain on July 4. The UK seized the vessel on the allegation that it was carrying Iranian oil to Syria in violation of the European Union's unilateral sanctions on the Arab country.
Zarif repeated Tehran's condemnation of the UK seizure as an act of "piracy."
Iran has denied that the vessel was heading for Syria, and Spain later said that London had ordered the confiscation at the request of the United States.
Washington has been trying to hamper Iran's international oil sales since leaving a multilateral nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic and other countries last year and returning the sanctions that the deal had lifted.
"Economic terrorism is a reality today. It equals targeting ordinary people in the hope that they would implement your policies," Zarif said.
Britain has dispatched three warships to the Persian Gulf after Iranian forces detained a UK-flagged tanker that had collided with an Iranian fishing boat in the Strait of Hormuz and refused to heed its distress calls afterwards.
'Iran no longer turns blind eye on maritime offenses'
The top diplomat reminded that the Persian Gulf's security is Iran's responsibility, and asserted that Iran will no longer turn a blind eye to "maritime offences" in the strategic waters.
'Superpower discourse and era of bullying over'
In another part of the press conference, Zarif said the United States has become isolated from the international community because of its domineering attitude. "The era when the discourse of superpowers and bullying would rule the world is over.... Today, America is alone in the world."
"Our discourse is one of companionship, cooperation, and empathy. It is for this reason that America is alone in the world today," he commented, adding, "America cannot form a coalition in areas that it claims to be a superpower, such as the military area."
'Countries embarrassed to have their names next to America'
"Other countries are embarrassed to have their names on a list next to America," he said, adding that wherever the Americans deployed their forces, they failed, like in Afghanistan.
Now, 18 years after they invaded Afghanistan, they have been forced to negotiate with the Taliban with humiliation, he noted.
His remarks came after reports in recent days that the U.S. has found it difficult to build a maritime coalition in the Persian Gulf, receiving a lukewarm response from European and Asian allies.
Australian Defense Minister Linda Reynolds has said his country was carefully weighing up the United States' request to join the coalition.
On Friday, Japan said it would not join the mission, adding that it may send its warships independently to protect Japanese ships in the world's most important oil artery, according to the Mainichi newspaper.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also said recently that his country would not participate in the U.S.-proposed naval mission.
'JCPOA not a holy thing and if necessary, we will quit it'
During his Monday press conference, Iran's foreign minister also said the country's third step to limit its JCPOA commitments will neither be its last step, nor will it be a walkout from the deal.
"The third step will neither be the last step, nor will it be quitting the JCPOA. The action will fall within the framework of the JCPOA. But the JCPOA is not a holy thing and if necessary, we will quit it. However, we do not see it necessary to do so right now."
He also warned the European Union about their passivity in the face of U.S. excessive demands.
"If the Europeans are worried about their future, they should stand up against such bullying acts, because in the future the Americans may say they have no right to work with China or buy gas from Russia," Zarif said, posing the question if the U.S. has any right to tell a continent what to do or not to do.
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