Tue. Jul 5th, 2022

Russia said it had received guarantees from the US that sanctions imposed on Moscow would not affect its trade with Iran, potentially removing a stumbling block that had complicated attempts to revive Tehran’s 2015 nuclear agreement with global powers.

Western officials paused indirect talks between Iran and the US in Vienna last week days after Russia demanded it received assurances from Washingtonwarning that Moscow’s move threatened to unravel the negotiations.

“We’ve received written guarantees. They are incorporated into the text of the agreement itself, ”Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said on Tuesday during a joint press conference with his visiting Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian, according to Interfax.

Both Iran and Russia put the onus back on US officials, saying Washington had to address Tehran’s remaining outstanding demands for a deal to be signed.

“The Americans are trying to say every day that we’re hindering this agreement, but this is a lie,” Lavrov added. “The agreement has not yet been finally approved in some capitals, and the Russian capital Moscow is not among these.”

The US Department of State said it had no comment on Lavrov’s remarks. However, it said the US was “continuing to engage” with Russia on reviving the nuclear deal, and confirmed that it “would of course not sanction Russian participation in nuclear projects” that were part of returning the agreement to its full implementation.

The state department said it could not provide any further assurances to Moscow beyond that.

Iran and global powers have been moving closer to an agreement to resurrect the 2015 nuclear agreement that would lead to Tehran drastically reversing its nuclear program in return for the US rejoining the agreement and lifting many sanctions on the Islamic republic.

However, the final stages of talks have coincided with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the significant economic and financial sanctions imposed by the west on Moscow in response to President Vladimir Putin’s offensive. Russia, which is a signatory to the agreement and plays an important role in the EU-mediated Iran talks in Vienna, last week demanded guarantees that its trade with Tehran would be protected from sanctions as part of any agreement.

Western diplomats blamed Russia for creating an obstacle with its demands just as an agreement was about to be struck after 11 months of tortuous negotiations. But Iran – which considers neighboring Russia a crucial geopolitical partner – insists it is the US blocking an agreement by refusing to remove all sanctions against Iran.

“Russia will not be an obstacle to reaching an agreement and there is no link between developments in Ukraine and the Vienna talks,” Amirabdollahian said at the press conference. “If we reach a final agreement in Vienna with the US on some issues which are our red lines, Russia will remain by Iran’s side until the end of negotiations.”

The crisis was triggered after then US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned the nuclear deal in 2018 and imposed crippling sanctions on Iran.

President Joe Biden has pledged to return to the agreement if Tehran comes back into full compliance with the agreement.

Western officials fear that if a deal is not reached soon, the moribund agreement will be redundant because of the advances Tehran has made to its nuclear program.

Iran, which has been expanding the program since 2019 and is now enriching uranium close to weapons grade, wants all Trump-era sanctions to be lifted, including those related to human rights and terrorism allegations. Iran also wants the lifting of sanctions on individuals such as supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi, as well as the Revolutionary Guard and its members.

Meanwhile, the fate of dual nationals who are in Iran’s jails are indirectly linked to the nuclear talks. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian national who was imprisoned by Tehran in 2016, has had her British passport returned to her, the woman’s lawyer said on Tuesday.

Hojjat Kermani, the lawyer, said having the passport did not mean Zaghari-Ratcliffe could rejoin her husband and daughter in London. “The ban on her leaving the country is still in place,” he told the Financial Times.

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