Iranian Foreign Minister Hosssein Amir-Abdollahian is set to visit Moscow on Tuesday to discuss the Vienna nuclear talks and situation in crisis-stricken Ukraine.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told his weekly briefing that the top Iranian diplomat will travel to Moscow with a “specific agenda” to discuss the developments in Vienna, without elaborating.
The eighth round of marathon talks in the Austrian capital was suspended on Friday, which the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, attributed to “external factors.”
The pause came at a time when the talks had entered the final stretch and the parties were set to finalize the deal after almost 11 months of hectic deliberations.
Many believe Russia’s fresh demands from the US have complicated the process and forced the negotiators to temporarily head back to their respective capitals.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier this month asked for a “written guarantee” from the US that sanctions over Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine would not affect its trade cooperation with Iran.
Khatibzadeh said Russia’s demand for a written guarantee from the US must be discussed in the joint commission of the JCPOA, also known as Iran nuclear deal.
He said, from day one, all JCPOA signatories have presented their respective demands to the joint commission, some of which were accepted, some rejected and some amended.
Giving a benefit of doubt to the Vladimir Putin government, he said Russia has committed not to obstruct a good agreement in Vienna, while commending the stance of Moscow and Beijing in the Vienna talks as “constructive”.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, a Tehran-based political analyst Alireza Davar said the timing of Amir-Abdollahian’s visit to Moscow suggests that Tehran has taken Russia’s demands “with a bit of seriousness”.
“Tehran worked hard since last November to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal and to have Trump-era sanctions lifted,” he said. “Now Russia’s demands have suddenly disrupted the momentum near the finish line.”
He said Iran does not wish to antagonize Russia by publicly blaming it for the “untimely interval” in the talks, which is why the foreign minister has planned a visit to Moscow “to ensure Iran’s interests are not hurt”.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry had last week asked for clarification from Moscow over Lavrov's remarks.
'It is clear that the Vienna talks are moving in the right direction,' Khatibzadeh said last Monday. 'Iran's peaceful nuclear cooperation should not be limited or affected by any sanctions, including Iran's cooperation with China, Russia and other countries.'
In his remarks on Monday, Khatibzadeh said the parties were still not at a point to clinch a deal, citing remaining issues between Iran and the US that need to be ironed out.
He blamed the delay in finalizing the deal on Washington, saying the Joe Biden administration needs to take 'political decisions' before the talks resume.
'As soon as we hear their decision, we will be able to return to Vienna and reach a final agreement,' Khatibzadeh said.
“What happened in Vienna is a short-term success and a break at the request of the coordinator of the JCPOA joint commission,' Khatibzadeh noted.
The spokesman said consultations between Iran and the remaining parties continue at various levels.
In a separate statement on Monday, Iran's top security official, Ali Shamkhani, said Tehran will remain in the Vienna talks until an agreement 'that meets all our legal and logical demands' is reached.
The latest break in the Vienna nuclear talks came amidst a simmering crisis in Ukraine in the wake of Russia's war and an attack in Iraq's northern city of Erbil on Saturday, which was claimed by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
While Russia's demands from the US have complicated the progress and possible outcome in the 11-month long talks, the strike in Erbil has again heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington.
Iran said the missiles targeted an Israeli 'strategic centre” in Erbil, as a revenge for the killing of two IRGC members in Syria last week.
The attack took place near an American military facility in Erbil, according to reports, giving rise to speculations that it could have been a possible target.
Khatibzadeh said Tehran had warned Iraqi authorities in the past against allowing its territory to be used by third parties against Iran.
Sadiq Ghorbani, a regional affairs analyst, told Anadolu Agency that developments in Ukraine and Erbil are 'definitely going to affect the talks in Vienna'.
'Russia's showdown with the West over Ukraine and demands from the US on one hand, and heightened tensions between Iran and the US over Ebril attack on the other hand threaten to put the talks on the back burner again,' he said. 'The delay can be indefinite'.
By Syed Zafar Mehdi in Iran