Russia: We want equal rights in Iran nuke deal

TEHRAN: A revived Iranian nuclear deal must secure “equal rights” for all world powers involved, Russia said on Monday, after Iran asked for details of Moscow’s demands for United States guarantees on restoring the accord.

This comes after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last Saturday that, before backing the Iran nuclear deal, his country wants written assurances from Washington that Western sanctions imposed on it over the Ukraine war would not affect its economic and military cooperation with Tehran.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called such demands “irrelevant” the next day, adding that sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine “have nothing to do with the Iran nuclear deal.”

Moscow’s demands have cast doubts on whether negotiations in Vienna, which have reached critical stages, could be concluded swiftly.

Russia is a direct party — along with the United Kingdom, China, France and Germany — to the ongoing talks aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal. Washington is participating indirectly.

Iran made it clear on Monday it was seeking clarifications from Moscow, with foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh saying “details” were needed.

“Iran’s peaceful nuclear cooperation should not be affected or restricted by any sanctions, including Iran’s peaceful nuclear cooperation with Russia” and other countries, he said.

Hours later, Russia’s embassy in Tehran tweeted that Lavrov and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian spoke by phone.

During the call, “it was emphasized that the resuscitation of the JCPOA should ensure that all its participants have equal rights regarding the unhindered development of cooperation in all areas,” the embassy said, using the acronym of the 2015 nuclear deal.

‘Atmosphere of sanctions’

For his part, Amir-Abdollahian said Iran’s cooperation with any country, “including Russia, should not be affected by the atmosphere of sanctions.”

Iran’s chief negotiator Ali Bagheri was returning home “briefly” on Monday night for consultations, state news agency IRNA reported.

The 2015 deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its atomic program to guarantee that Tehran could not develop a nuclear weapon — something it has staunchly denied.

But America’s unilateral withdrawal from the accord in 2018 under then-president Donald Trump and the reimposition of biting economic sanctions prompted Iran to begin rolling back on its own commitments.

The US and other Western nations have imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

Parties to negotiations to revive the 2015 deal have signaled progress in the talks during the past several weeks.

Tehran has said most of the draft agreement was approved, but outstanding issues depend on the West’s decisions.

“The remaining differences are [fewer] than the number of fingers on one hand if no one adds a new issue,” Khatibzadeh said on Monday. “All of those (differences) await the response of the United States.”

‘Unclear’ prospect

Iran’s top security official Ali Shamkhani on Monday also blamed the US for the lack of an agreement so far.

The “prospect of a deal in Vienna talks remains unclear due to Washington’s delay in making political decisions,” Shamkhani tweeted.

Tehran has been seeking a lifting of sanctions, as well as guarantees that Washington would not again withdraw from the agreement.

As with the original accord, Moscow is expected to play a key role in the implementation of any fresh deal with Tehran, for example, by receiving shipments of enriched uranium from Iran.

“Russia’s approach so far has been a constructive one in order to reach a collective agreement in Vienna,” Khatibzadeh stressed.

The Vienna talks, which started 11 months ago, aim to return the US to the agreement, including through the lifting of sanctions on Iran, and to ensure Tehran’s full compliance with its commitments.