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Russia says it has written guarantees on Iran nuclear deal

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Moscow
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian during a joint news conference in Moscow, Russia, March 15, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/Pool

March 15, 2022

By Parisa Hafezi and Humeyra Pamuk

DUBAI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Russia said on Tuesday it had received written guarantees it could carry out its work as a party to the Iran nuclear deal, suggesting Moscow would allow a revival of the torn 2015 pact.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s comments seemed to signal that Moscow may have retracted its earlier view that Western sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine were an obstacle to salvaging the nuclear deal.

Lavrov on March 5 unexpectedly called for sweeping guarantees that Russia’s trade with Iran would not be affected by Ukraine-related sanctions — a demand Western powers have called unacceptable and Washington insisted it would not accept.

Under the deal, officially dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran has agreed to limit its nuclear program to make it harder to develop a nuclear bomb — a goal it disputes — in exchange for lifting global economic sanctions.

“We have received written guarantees – they are contained in the very text of the agreement to revive the JCPOA, and in these texts there is a reliable defense of all projects envisaged by the JCPOA and these activities – including the linking of our companies and specialists,” Lavrov said.

At a press conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian in Moscow, Lavrov also denied that Russia was an obstacle to reviving the 2015 deal.

“I’ve heard the Americans try every day to accuse us of delaying the deal – that’s a lie. The agreement does not receive final approval in several capitals, and the Russian capital – Moscow – is not one of them.”

Oil prices fell sharply, dragged down by Lavrov’s comments that Moscow was in favor of resuming the nuclear deal soon and doubts about Chinese demand amid rising COVID-19 cases in China.

However, several Western officials said they were not sure what Lavrov meant.

Western officials say there is a common interest in avoiding a nuclear non-proliferation crisis and they are trying to determine whether Russia’s demands pertain only to its nuclear commitments to the Iran deal. That would be feasible, but anything beyond that would be problematic, they say.

In Washington, a US official also responded cautiously to Lavrov’s comments, saying they could mean Moscow had switched to the US view that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should not torpedo the Iran nuclear deal.

“We would of course not sanction Russia’s involvement in nuclear projects that are part of resuming full implementation of the JCPOA,” the senior US State Department official said on condition of anonymity.

“We cannot give Russia any further assurances,” he added. “Perhaps now Moscow is clear that the new Russia-related sanctions, as we have said publicly, have nothing to do with the JCPOA and should not affect its implementation.”

Eleven months of turbulent talks to revive the deal – which then-US President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018, prompting Tehran to start violating its nuclear borders about a year later – stalled in Vienna last week after Russia called for assurances.

Iran said the United States lacked the “political will” to resolve several outstanding issues at the Vienna nuclear talks. The Islamic Republic has insisted that Washington lift human rights and terrorism-related sanctions, including those imposed on its elite Revolutionary Guards in 2019.

Amirabdollahian said the pause in the Vienna talks could help resolve some of the outstanding issues and suggested that Russia is not an obstacle.

“If we can agree with the United States on the few issues that are our red line and reach a final agreement, Russia will stand by our side until the end of the talks to achieve a good, stable, and strong nuclear deal.” , he called.

(Reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Dubai and by Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Additional reporting by Guy Faulconbridge in London and by John Irish in Paris; Writing by Arshad Mohammed, editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Bobby Allyn

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