Russia says received US guarantees on Iran nuclear deal

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (right) shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian during a joint news conference in Moscow, on March 15, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday (March 15) that Moscow had received guarantees from Washington on its ability to trade with Teheran as part of ongoing talks to salvage the Iran nuclear deal.

"We received written guarantees. They are included in the text of the agreement itself on the resumption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear programme," Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

More than 10 months of talks in Vienna have brought major powers close to renewing the landmark 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on regulating Iran's nuclear programme.

The negotiations halted after Moscow earlier this month demanded guarantees that Western sanctions imposed following its military operation in Ukraine would not damage its trade with Iran.

Lavrov said that the guarantees it had received from Washington would protect Russian involvement in Iran's sole Bushehr nuclear energy plant.

The minister said Moscow and Teheran share the position that Western sanctions are imposed with the aim of overriding international law, and accused Washington and its partners of directing the penalties "primarily against ordinary citizens".

The 2015 deal gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.

The agreement aimed to ensure Iran would not be able to develop a nuclear weapon, which it has always denied seeking.

"Russia will not be an obstacle to reaching an agreement," Iran's Amir-Abdollahian said at the press conference with Lavrov.

"There will be no relation between Ukraine's developments... and Vienna negotiations," he said, referring to the ongoing conflict and talks on renewing the 2015 agreement.

He praised Russia's "very positive and constructive role" in the talks and said Moscow would "stay beside the Islamic Republic of Iran until the end of the negotiations and reaching a good, strong and lasting agreement".

In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price played down the issue, saying that it was always understood that the United States would not sanction Russian involvement in nuclear projects related to the revival of the JCPOA.

New sanctions on Russia related to Ukraine "are unrelated to a potential return to full compliance with the JCPOA, and they shouldn't have any impact any impact on its implementation," Price said.

"We have not provided assurances beyond that to Russia," Price said.

Price said there were still a "couple" of outstanding issues in the negotiations with Teheran that need to be resolved before a final agreement can be reached.

"Now that we are this close to the finish line, those outstanding issues tend to be the hardest issues," he said, without explaining what they are.

"So we're not there yet. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed," he said.

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