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In Moscow, Putin and Raisi hail ties during decisive moment for Iran nuclear deal

Russian president praises ‘close cooperation’ as chief negotiators return to Vienna after consultations; Iran’s leader says ‘no limits for expanding ties’

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) speaks with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (right) during their meeting in Moscow, on January 19, 2022. (Pavel Bednyakov/Sputnik/AFP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) speaks with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (right) during their meeting in Moscow, on January 19, 2022. (Pavel Bednyakov/Sputnik/AFP)

MOSCOW, Russia  — Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi hailed bilateral ties during a meeting in Moscow Wednesday, as pressure mounts for a decision on the Iran nuclear deal.

Raisi said he had presented Moscow with draft documents on strategic cooperation that would cement joint collaboration for the next two decades.

“We in Iran have no limits for expanding ties with Russia,” the Iranian leader said on his first state visit since taking office in August.

He said Tehran wanted to develop relations with Moscow that would “not be temporary, but permanent and strategic.”

“Today’s exceptional circumstances require significant synergy between our two countries against US unilateralism,” he said in televised remarks.

Putin praised the countries’ “close cooperation” on the international stage and said: “It is very important for me to know your opinion on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.”

The 2015 accord between Iran and world powers — the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China, and Germany — offered Tehran relief from crippling international sanctions in return for deep curbs on its nuclear program.

But the unilateral US withdrawal from the agreement in 2018 under former president Donald Trump prompted Tehran to walk back on its commitments.

Talks to restore the accord began again last year but stopped in June, when Iran elected Raisi. They then resumed in November.

A camera directed on Palais Coburg, where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, on December 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Gruber)

This is the ultraconservative president’s most significant visit abroad since he took over in August from moderate Hassan Rouhani, who was the last Iranian president to visit Russia in March 2017.

Moscow and Tehran have strong political, economic, and military ties, shared interests in Afghanistan, and are key allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country’s decade-long civil war.

On Monday, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said it was time for the US to make political decisions to resolve key remaining issues, including on lifting sanctions, at talks aimed at reviving Tehran’s nuclear deal.

“What remains are important and key issues that require specific political decisions,” he said at his weekly news conference.

“Washington, in particular, must announce its decisions on removing sanctions and the remaining issues,” he said. “If this happens… we will reach a lasting, reliable agreement at a good pace.”

His remarks came on the day chief negotiators were due to return to Vienna for the talks after having traveled home on Saturday for consultations.

The US has participated only indirectly in the talks, which seek to bring Washington back to the accord and to ensure Iran returns to its commitments under the deal.

Western parties have insisted on the “urgency” of reaching a deal, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying on Thursday that there are only weeks left to save the accord.

Washington is ready to look at “other options” if negotiations fail, he said.

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