PARIS: France warned Tuesday that further delays could stymie a revived nuclear agreement between world powers and Iran, with the West at loggerheads with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, while Washington said it would cede nothing to Moscow.
Moscow is a direct party – along with Britain, China, France and Germany – to the ongoing talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal to limit Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.
Washington is participating indirectly, as former president Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018.
“We are very close to a deal,” but Paris is “very worried about risks that further delays could weigh on the chances,” a foreign ministry spokeswoman told reporters in an apparent reference to Russia’s demands for extra guarantees.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has demanded written assurances from Washington that massive Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine will not affect its economic and military cooperation with Tehran.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said such demands are “irrelevant”.
Russia said Monday that all world powers must have “equal rights” if the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is revived.
Sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine “have nothing to do with the Iran nuclear deal”, Blinken said Sunday.
France “calls on all other parties to adopt a responsible approach,” the foreign ministry spokeswoman said Tuesday.
At a hearing on Capitol Hill later Tuesday, when asked if Washington had provided Moscow with the written guarantees requested, US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland was clear: “No.”
“We’re not negotiating with Russia vis-a-vis Iran,” Nuland said. “Russia is trying to up the ante and broaden its demands with regard to the JCPOA and we are not playing ‘Let’s Make A Deal’.”
“There may be some in Russia seeking to get extra benefits for their cooperation and participation in seeking to get Iran back into the JCPOA, but they are not going to be successful,” she added.
Nuland told lawmakers that Russia has “relatively small trade relations” with Iran, and that its participation was more based on its own national security interests.
She said negotiators in Vienna had “nearly completed” a deal and rejected calls by some to halt talks because of the war in Ukraine.
“The last thing we need on top of Putin’s bloody war is a nuclear-armed Iran,” she said.
Iran’s official IRNA news agency meanwhile said that Tehran’s top negotiator Ali Bagheri would travel to Vienna early Wednesday “to continue the talks”.