Iran's FM to hold talks on nuclear deal in Moscow Tuesday

AFP , Monday 14 Mar 2022

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian will head to Moscow on Tuesday, the ministry said, days after negotiations on an Iran nuclear deal stalled amid new Russian demands.

Hossein Amir Abdollahian
File Photo: Hossein Amir Abdollahian. AP

"Russia has made its official demands loud and clear, and this needs to be discussed among all parties to the 2015 agreement, like all the demands that have been presented by other parties," foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters on Monday.

"The foreign ministers of the parties (to the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal) are in constant contact", and Amir-Abdollahian "will go to Moscow on Tuesday to continue the discussions", Khatibzadeh added.

More than 10 months of talks in Vienna have brought major powers close to renewing the landmark 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on regulating Iran's nuclear programme.

But the negotiations were halted after Russia on March 5 demanded guarantees that Western sanctions imposed following its invasion of Ukraine would not damage its trade with Iran.

On March 11, the European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted that the pause was "due to external factors," despite the fact that "a final text is essentially ready and on the table".

Iran waiting on Washington

The United States then put the ball in Iran and Russia's courts after the EU announcement.

"We are confident that we can achieve mutual return to compliance... (if) those decisions are made in places like Tehran and Moscow," State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has dismissed as "irrelevant" the Russian demands for guarantees, saying that they "just are not in any way linked together".

But on Monday, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman repeated Tehran's position that the move had to come from the US.

"The remaining issues and points between us and the United States need political decisions in Washington", Khatibzadeh said.

"If they (the US) announce that they have made a decision, then all the delegations can return to Vienna" to finalise an agreement, he said.

"We are not at the point of announcing the agreement," he added.

Russia and Iran have seen relations improve in recent years, and Moscow plays a central role in enforcing the 2015 pact, in particular by receiving excess enriched uranium from Tehran.

The JCPOA aimed to ensure Iran would not be able to develop a nuclear weapon, which it has always denied seeking.

On Saturday, Britain, France and Germany warned against moves to "exploit" the JCPOA, seen as a tacit warning to Russia.

"Nobody should seek to exploit JCPOA negotiations to obtain assurances that are separate to the JCPOA," the British, French and German foreign ministries -- the three European parties to the negotiations -- said in a statement.

"This risks the collapse of the deal, depriving the Iranian people of sanctions lifting and the international community of the assurance needed on Iran's nuclear programme," they added.

The current round of negotiations started in late November in the Austrian capital between Iran and Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, with the US taking part indirectly.

The 2105 deal gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.

But the US unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018 under then-president Donald Trump and imposed tough economic sanctions on different sectors, including oil exports.

Short link: