Russia and China blame US for Iran nuclear crisis

Russia and China blame US for Iran nuclear crisis

Moscow says Tehran breaching uranium enrichment cap a consequence of US withdrawing from 2015 deal; Beijing accuses Washington of ‘unilateral bullying’ of Islamic Republic

File: An Iranian worker at the Uranium Conversion Facility at Isfahan, 410 kilometers south of Tehran, January 2014. (AP /Vahid Salemi)
File: An Iranian worker at the Uranium Conversion Facility at Isfahan, 410 kilometers south of Tehran, January 2014. (AP /Vahid Salemi)

Russia and China on Monday blamed the United States’ abandonment of the 2015 nuclear deal and the resumption of economic sanctions for the escalating nuclear crisis with Iran.

Hours after Tehran announced it had breached the 3.67% uranium enrichment limit set under the 2015 agreement, Beijing accused the Trump administration of “bullying” the Islamic Republic.

“The facts show that unilateral bullying has already become a worsening tumor,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang at a press briefing in Beijing.

“The maximum pressure exerted by the US on Iran is the root cause of the Iranian nuclear crisis,” he said.

Iran earlier threatened to abandon more of the deal’s commitments unless a solution is found with the remaining parties.

Russia on Monday also expressed concern over Tehran’s announcements, and said it would pursue diplomatic solutions in a bid to save the faltering pact.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov in Moscow, Russia, April 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the crisis “is of course concerning,” and said Moscow remained committed to the 2015 deal that promised Iran relief from punishing sanctions in return for setting strict limits on its nuclear activities.

“Russia aims to continue dialogue and efforts on the diplomatic front. We are still supporters of the JCPOA (the nuclear deal).” He said the announcement by Iran is one of the “consequences” of the US abandoning the landmark deal.

“Russia and President (Vladimir) Putin warned of the consequences that would be imminent after one of the countries decided to end its obligations and exit the deal,” Peskov said.

US President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal between Iran and six world powers in May 2018 and has since reimposed sanctions on many sectors including the crucial oil and financial industries.

Iran has demanded the other parties — France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia — take steps to guarantee the economic benefits Iran was promised for the drastic limitations imposed on its nuclear program.

However after one year of what it called “strategic patience,” Tehran has grown increasingly frustrated about a perceived lack of action by the European side to help it economically in the face of crippling US sanctions.

On Monday, the spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said the country had begun enriching uranium to 4.5%, breaking the 3.67% limit set by the nuclear deal.

In a state television interview, Behrouz Kamalvandi, said Iran that the country might consider going to 20% enrichment or higher as the next step in rolling back its commitments under the agreement. That would worry nuclear nonproliferation experts, as 20% is a short technical step away from reaching weapons-grade levels of 90%.

A short time later, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi warned European countries against any escalatory response to its breaching the uranium enrichment cap.

Abbas Araghchi (C-R), political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, and Helga Schmid (C-L), Secretary General of the European Union’s External Action Service (EEAS), take part in a meeting of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) attended by the E3+2 (China, France, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom) and Iran on June 28, 2019 at the Palais Coburg in Vienna, Austria. (ALEX HALADA / AFP)

If European parties to the agreement “do certain strange acts then we would skip all the next steps (in the plan to scale back commitments) and implement the last one,” Mousavi said.

He also gave a sharp, yet unelaborated warning to Europe about another 60-day deadline Iran set Sunday. That deadline will come September 5, though Iran’s senior Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri on Monday described the deadline as being Sept. 7. The two dates could not be immediately reconciled.

“If the remaining countries in the deal, especially the Europeans, do not fulfill their commitments seriously, and not do anything more than talk, Iran’s third step will be harder, more steadfast and somehow stunning,” he said.

In response, the European Union said it was “extremely concerned” by the recent Iranian announcements and called on Tehran to “stop and reverse all activities” that are inconsistent with the terms of the 2015 deal.

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