US: Sanctions on Russia for Ukraine war shouldn’t impact renewal of Iran nuke deal

After Russian FM links new American sanctions over invasion to Vienna talks, State Department says Washington, Moscow have ‘a common interest’ in restoring accord

The flag of Iran waves in front of the International Center building with the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, in Vienna, Austria, on May 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Florian Schroetter, File)
The flag of Iran waves in front of the International Center building with the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, in Vienna, Austria, on May 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Florian Schroetter, File)

American sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine should have no effect on the talks to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the US State Department said Saturday.

“The new Russia-related sanctions are unrelated to the JCPOA and should not have any impact on its potential implementation,” a spokesperson said, according to Reuters, referring to the 2015 accord by its initials.

“We continue to engage with Russia on a return to full implementation of the JCPOA. Russia shares a common interest in ensuring Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon,” the spokesperson added.

The comments came after Russia’s foreign minister for the first time linked American sanctions on Moscow over its war on Ukraine to the ongoing Iran nuclear deal talks — adding a new wrinkle to the delicate diplomacy.

Sergey Lavrov said that the nuclear talks have covered most issues and “from our point of view, if Iran agrees, this document can already be launched into the acceptance process.”

But he added that there are “problems that have appeared recently from the point of view of Russia’s interests,” due to concerns over the terms of the deal concerning Moscow’s involvement in the civilian nuclear sector in Iran and arms sales to Tehran.

Lavrov cited the “avalanche of aggressive sanctions that the West has started spewing out, which hasn’t ended as far as I understand,” over the Ukraine conflict.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a meeting with his Kyrgyz counterpart in Moscow. on March 5, 2022. (Sergei Ilnitesky/Pool/AFP)

He said this meant Moscow had to ask the US for guarantees first, requiring a “clear answer” that the new sanctions will not affect its rights under the nuclear deal.

“We requested that our US colleagues… give us written guarantees at the minimum level of Secretary of State that the current [sanctions] process launched by the US will not in any way harm our right to free, fully-fledged trade and economic and investment cooperation and military-technical cooperation with Iran,” Lavrov said at a news conference.

A senior Iranian official criticized the Russian demand, telling Reuters it was “not constructive” to the ongoing nuclear talks in Vienna.

“Russians had put this demand on the table [at the Vienna talks] since two days ago. There is an understanding that by changing its position in Vienna talks Russia wants to secure its interests in other places. This move is not constructive for Vienna nuclear talks,” the unnamed official was quoted as saying.

Russia is a party to the ongoing talks in the Austrian capital to restore the agreement along with Britain, China, France, and Germany. The United States is participating indirectly.

As with the original JCPOA in 2015, Moscow is expected to play a role in the implementation of any fresh deal with Iran, for example by receiving shipments of enriched uranium from Iran.

The 2015 nuclear deal has been hanging by a thread since then-US president Donald Trump pulled out in 2018 and reimposed sweeping sanctions, including on Iran’s vital oil and gas exports.

The landmark accord was aimed at guaranteeing Tehran could not develop a nuclear weapon — something it has always denied wanting to do.

Iran said this week that it was ready to raise its crude exports to pre-sanctions levels within one to two months of a deal being signed.

In this image made from April 17, 2021, video released by the Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting, IRIB, state-run TV, various centrifuge machines line the hall damaged on April 11, 2021, at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility, some 200 miles (322 km) south of the capital Tehran. (IRIB via AP, File)

Also Saturday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Russian President Vladimir Putin for talks on the war in Ukraine, though the two also discussed the Vienna talks, according to an Israeli diplomatic source.

“The prime minister expressed the position of Israel, which is opposed to a return to the nuclear deal,” the source said.

There was no immediate comment on any link between the new Russian position and Bennett’s visit.

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