Putin: Collapse of Iran deal could hurt Israel’s security
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Putin: Collapse of Iran deal could hurt Israel’s security

As Iranians meet with signatories in Vienna in effort to save ‘dying’ accord, Russian leader warns drastic shifts in US policy endanger global stability

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech at a session of the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum on May 25, 2018, in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (AFP/Kirill Kudryavtsev)
Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech at a session of the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum on May 25, 2018, in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (AFP/Kirill Kudryavtsev)

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Friday that the US exit from the Iranian nuclear deal could trigger dangerous instability and raise new threats for Israel if Tehran resumes a full-fledged nuclear program.

“We can’t sort things out with North Korea. Do we want another problem on the same scale?” Putin asked at a business forum.

Putin said it was still possible to save the deal.

“The US president is not closing the door on negotiations,” Putin said at the Saint Petersburg Economic Forum. “I think that all is not yet lost,” he added.

The Russian leader said the US withdrawal from the 2015 agreement came even as the international nuclear watchdog confirmed that Tehran was fulfilling its obligations. “What should it be punished for, then?” Putin asked.

President Donald Trump’s administration has demanded that Iran stop the enrichment of uranium and end its involvement in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Afghanistan in order to negotiate a new deal.

Putin underlined that former President Barack Obama’s administration played the key role in negotiating the Iran deal, and he emphasized that the drastic shift in US policy highlighted risks for global stability.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech at a session of the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum on May 25, 2018 in Saint Petersburg. (AFP/Ludovic Marin)

“If international agreements are revised every four years it would offer zero horizon for planning,” Putin said. “It will create the atmosphere of nervousness and lack of trust.”

While Israel hailed the US withdrawal, Putin warned that the move could eventually hurt Israeli security if the deal completely falls apart.

A ‘dying deal’

His remarks came as the signatories of the agreement met in Vienna in a bid to save the deal.

For the first time since the accord came into force in 2015, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany gathered — at Iran’s request — without the United States, which pulled out on May 8.

Speaking after Friday’s meeting, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said: “We are negotiating… to see if they can provide us with a package which can give Iran the benefits of sanctions lifting,” adding that “practical solutions” were required to address Iran’s concerns over its oil exports, banking flows and foreign investments in the country.

“The next step is to find guarantees for that package,” he said.

Iranian officials have said they expect a package of this kind to be presented by the end of May.

(L to R) Secretary General of the European Union External Action Service (EEAS) Helga Schmid, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA Yukiya Amano and political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran Abbas Araghchi attend a special meeting of the Joint Commission of parties to the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) on Iran’s nuclear deal at Coburg palace in Vienna, Austria, on May 25, 2018. (AFP Photo/Joe Klamar)

Araghchi said that talks would continue over the next few weeks “particularly at an expert level,” after which Iran would decide whether or not to stay in the accord.

“We got the sense that Europeans, Russia and China… are serious and they recognize that JCPOA’s survival depends on the interests of Iran being respected,” Araghchi added.

Russian delegate Mikhail Ulyanov struck an upbeat note after the meeting, saying: “We have all chances to succeed, provided that we have the political will.

“I must tell you that the JCPOA is a major international asset. It does not belong to the United States, it belongs to the whole international community.”

He added that the possibility of referring the matter back to the UN “was not discussed during this meeting.”

Unusually for a meeting of the joint commission, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano was invited to brief the participants on the IAEA’s work in Iran.

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano at a news conference in Vienna, Austria, on November 26, 2015. (AP/Ronald Zak)

According to a report seen by AFP on Thursday, the International Atomic Energy Agency believes Iran is still abiding by the deal’s key restrictions on its nuclear facilities in return for relief from damaging economic sanctions.

The IAEA, however, is “encouraging (Iran) to go above and beyond the requirements” of the deal in order to boost confidence, said a senior diplomat in Vienna, where the IAEA is based.

As well as criticizing the deal for not restricting Iran’s nuclear activities enough, Trump also said it did not go far enough in restricting Iran’s ballistic missile program, or its intervention in regional conflicts from Yemen to Iraq and Syria.

Speaking before the meeting, a senior Iranian official rejected any attempt to link the deal, known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to other such issues.

The official said it would mean “we lose JCPOA and we (would) make the other issues even more complicated to resolve,” adding it was pointless for the Europeans to try to “appease” Trump.

“We have now a deal which is in the intensive care unit, it’s dying,” he said.

Since the US pull-out, the other signatories have embarked on a diplomatic marathon to try to keep the agreement afloat.

Iran has threatened to restart its uranium enrichment program at an “industrial level” if the deal falls apart.

The five signatories still committed to the agreement have said they want Iran to stay in the deal, with the European countries saying they would not rule out further talks with the Islamic Republic on an expanded text.

However, Iranian officials have warned that there was no question of broadening the discussions.

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