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Iran's foreign minister condemns US sanctions on Turkey

Javad Zarif calls for lifting of sanctions in Iran and Turkey at press conference in Istanbul
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu welcomes his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif before their meeting at the Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul (AFP)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has condemned US sanctions on Turkey during a visit to Istanbul.

Speaking during a joint press conference with his counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, Zarif criticised Washington's decision last month to slap Turkey with sanctions using the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), over the country's purchase of the S-400 Russian air defence system.

"We condemn the US CAATSA sanctions imposed on Turkey, these sanctions have no significance," he told the conference.

"The US is used to imposing sanctions. These policies of the United States are harmful to itself and to the rest of the world."

Tensions between the US and Turkey have been at an all-time high and with the election of Democrat President Joe Biden - who unlike his predecessor Donald Trump is not seen as sympathetic to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan - there is likely to be increased pressure on the country.

By contrast, Iran is hoping that Biden will not be as overtly hostile to Iran as his predecessor, and politicians on both sides have expressed hopes that there could be a return to the Iran nuclear deal agreed in 2015, which Donald Trump abandoned in 2018.

On Friday, however, Zarif said that Iran would not be reversing the acceleration of its nuclear programme before Washington lifted sanctions imposed on Iran.

Zarif said the demand was "not practical and will not happen".

New hope for diplomacy

Biden's administration has promised a new approach to the Middle East, including a gradual return to diplomacy with Iran.

However, new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said Washington would only rejoin the Iran agreement once Tehran start complying with its terms again.

Cavusoglu also told the press conference he hoped that the US would return to the 2015 accord with Iran, which was also signed by the European Union, Russia and China.

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"We hope the United States will return to the agreement under the Biden administration," he said.

"God willing, sanctions and embargoes on Iran will be removed."

The visit by Iran's top diplomat comes as part of a regional tour that took him to Baku, Yerevan, Tbilisi and Moscow. 

Turkey and Iran, two regional powers with diplomatic disagreements that include Syria, became entangled in a spat in December linked to Turkey's support for Azerbaijan in its victorious war with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. 

Erdogan, who attended a victory parade in Baku, recited a poem that Iranian officials said supported separatism among Iran's large ethnic Azerbaijani minority.

Tehran and Ankara have since tried to move past the dispute.