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Russian Demand On Sanctions Introduces Uncertainty At Iran Nuclear Talks

By RFE/RL March 07, 2022

Russia's demand for guarantees that sanctions it faces over the Ukraine conflict will not hurt its trade with Tehran has raised uncertainty at talks to revive Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

An Iranian official quoted on March 7 by Iran's semiofficial Tasnim news agency said that Russia's demands are "not constructive," while Iran's top security official said the outlook for the talks now "remains unclear."

The Iranian state news agency IRNA said later on March 7 that Iran's chief negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, will return to Tehran for consultations.

Moscow raised its demand last week when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on March 4 that Moscow would insist on "written guarantees at the minimum level of [the U.S.] Secretary of State" before backing a new nuclear deal with Iran.

Lavrov's announcement came shortly after Tehran said it had agreed to a road map with the UN nuclear agency to resolve issues holding up negotiations with world powers in Vienna aimed at restoring the stalled 2015 nuclear deal.

Once a deal is reached, sanctions on Iranian oil sales are expected to be lifted, but it will take several months to restore oil flows.

By postponing the revival of the agreement between Iran and the Western powers, and delaying Iran's return to the oil market, Tasnim said Russia was seeking to raise crude prices and increase its own energy revenue. It did not cite a source for that assessment.

Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran's powerful Supreme National Security Council, said on Twitter on March 7 that his country was seeking "creative ways" to restore the deal.

"Vienna participants act & react based on interests and it's understandable," Shamkhani said. "Our interactions...are also solely driven by our people's interests. Thus, we're assessing new elements that bear on the negotiations and will accordingly seek creative ways to expedite a solution."

He later said the prospect of a deal "remains unclear due to Washington's delay in making political decision" and the "rapid access to a strong deal requires new initiatives from all parties."

On March 6, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Lavrov's demand "irrelevant," saying the nuclear deal and sanctions on Moscow over the war in Ukraine were "totally different."

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that "peaceful nuclear cooperation" between China, Iran, and Russia shouldn't be limited by sanctions.

"So far Russia had shown a constructive approach for reaching a collective agreement in Vienna and we interpret what they say in this framework," he said, speaking in Tehran. "We will wait for them to give us more details in Vienna."

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian also weighed in, vowing that Tehran "will not allow any foreign factor to affect the national interests of the country in the Vienna talks," according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

Talks to restore the deal that the United States withdrew from in 2018 have been ongoing in Vienna since April and have been mediated by France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, and China.

Negotiators on all sides have signaled that a potential deal is close as the head of the UN nuclear watchdog agreed to a timetable for Iran to answer the watchdog's long-standing questions about Tehran's program.

With reporting by Reuters

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/iran-russia- nuclear-deal-not-constructive/31740096.html

Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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