Russia, China blame US for Iranian step-back from nuclear deal

Germany calls on Tehran to uphold its end of 2015 accord, while UK warns Islamic Republic of ‘consequences’ if it doesn’t honor its commitments

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (right) and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif give a joint press conference following their meeting in Moscow on May 8, 2019. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (right) and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif give a joint press conference following their meeting in Moscow on May 8, 2019. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP)

Russia and China hit out at the United States on Wednesday after Iran announced it was walking back its commitment to the international accord curbing its nuclear program.

Meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reaffirmed Moscow’s support for the 2015 accord and blamed the US for undermining it.

“The US is to blame for the situation and it makes it difficult for both Iran to fulfill its obligations and … for the general state of the nuclear non-proliferation regime,” he said during a press conference in Moscow.

Lavrov said that the ministers agreed to continue working with all remaining signatories to the deal to ensure obligations are honored even if the US won’t return to the table.

Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said the US has “further aggravated” tensions over the Iran nuclear issue and that Beijing appreciates Tehran’s “strict implementation” of the 2015 nuclear deal, which US President Donald Trump withdrew from a year ago.

Geng said China “calls on all parties concerned to exercise restraint” and avoid escalating tensions.

A key Iranian ally and trading partner, China was a signatory to the deal and continues to support it, along with Britain, Russia, the European Union, France and Germany.

In this photo from January 23, 2016, released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Tehran, Iran. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

In Moscow, Lavrov said the situation surrounding the fate of the accord has been complicated by “irresponsible behavior” from Washington.

Lavrov was meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif. The nuclear deal was be at the top of their agenda after, earlier in the day, Iran announced it would suspend some of its commitments in response to US sanctions. Lavrov said they would discuss the “unacceptable situation” that has been exacerbated by the United States.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin had repeatedly warned there would be consequences for “ill-advised” steps taken by the US against Iran.

Speaking at a press conference alongside Lavrov, Zarif accused European nations of not fulfilling their obligations under the nuclear deal. He insisted that the partial withdrawal did not violate the agreement, asserting it was provoked by US actions toward Iran.

He also said Iran will uphold its obligations if European signatories to the deal uphold theirs.

“Our friends in Russia and China maintained very good relations with us in this year” since Washington quit the agreement, Zarif said.

“But the rest of the JCPOA participants did not meet any of their obligations,” he said, referring to Britain, France and Germany. “Yes, they issued good statements, but in practice nothing happened.”

From left, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and then British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson pose for a photo during a meeting of the foreign ministers at the Europa building in Brussels, on May 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys, Pool)

Germany, meanwhile, urged Iran to uphold the pact.

Berlin wants to keep alive the agreement, said Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert, adding: “We as Europeans, as Germans, will play our part and we expect full implementation from Iran as well.”

A German foreign ministry spokesman said that “we and the other remaining participants in the JCPOA are fully committed to the pledges we have made and we expect Iran to do the same.”

Britain called Iran’s decision to no longer respect the terms of the deal with world powers an “unwelcome step” that could lead to new Western sanctions.

“Today’s announcement from Tehran is, I have to say to the House, an unwelcome step. We urge Iran not to take further escalatory steps and to stand by its commitments,” Foreign Office minister Mark Field told parliament.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman later told reporters: “We are extremely concerned about this announcement.”

“This deal is a crucial agreement which makes the world safer and we will ensure it remains in place for as long as Iran upholds these commitments,” he said.

The spokesman said Britain would hold talks with its partners, particularly France and Germany, over its next steps.

Field said: “We are not at this stage talking about re-imposing sanctions, but one has to remember that they were, of course, lifted in exchange for the nuclear restrictions as part of that JCPOA.”

But he added: “Should Iran cease meeting its nuclear commitments, there would of course be consequences.”

May was set to meet later in the day with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who arrived in London after canceling a trip to Germany to make an unannounced visit to Baghdad, where he warned Iraqi officials about what he called imminent threats to American interests in the Middle East.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) is greeted by Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt ahead of their working lunch at Carlton Gardens in central London on May 8, 2019. (Mandel Ngan/Pool/AFP)

The Iranian announcement Wednesday followed Washington’s deployment of an aircraft carrier and a bomber wing to confront unspecified threats from Tehran. The US withdrawal last year from the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, has already halted promised international business deals and dealt a heavy blow to Iran’s already anemic economy. In the time since, the Trump administration has said any country that imports Iranian crude oil will face US sanctions.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made the announcement during a televised speech from Tehran, saying that the Islamic Republic would keep its excess enriched uranium and heavy water, and set a 60-day deadline for new terms for its nuclear deal.

Rouhani said Iran wanted to negotiate new terms with remaining partners in the deal, but acknowledged that the situation was dire.

Shortly after the Iranian announcement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear arms.

“We will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” Netanyahu said at an official ceremony to mark the annual Memorial Day held at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed