MOSCOW / TEHRAN
Russia condemns fresh EU sanctions against Iran as they could undermine ongoing talks on restoring the Iran nuclear deal, said Russia’s foreign minister on Tuesday.
Speaking at a news conference in Tehran following a meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov urged the EU to take measures to prevent the breakdown of talks over returning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name for the 2015 deal.
"If there is a lack of coordination in the EU, and the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, it is simply a disaster,” he said.
“But if this decision is deliberately made in the midst of the negotiations that are continuing in Vienna to save the JCPOA, then it is no longer a problem, it’s already a mistake, which, as you know, is worse than a crime.”
He added: "We condemn any attempts to undermine the process that is currently developing not so easily in Vienna between all the participants of the JCPOA. I hope that our European colleagues will realize the unacceptability of such actions and will take some measures to prevent the breakdown of the negotiations."
Lavrov insisted that lifting all the US sanctions, including those against foreign firms cooperating with Iran, is a necessary step to restore the deal.
"All unilateral sanctions that were imposed by Washington in direct violation of the JCPOA should be unconditionally lifted. This is the topic that is currently being discussed in Vienna, and the implementation of this task by the US, the return of the US to the full implementation of its obligations under [UN Security Council] Resolution 2231 will allow Iran to return to full implementation of the voluntary steps that Tehran has pledged to take in accordance with this resolution,” he said.
"This applies not only to the sanctions that were illegally imposed directly against Iran but also to all those sanctions that were imposed against foreign companies for cooperating with Iran."
He warned that there is little time to restore the deal, citing the Iranian parliament passing a law on strategic measures to counter the US sanctions.
"Only a full return, without any exceptions, to the Security Council resolution, is the way out of the current situation," Lavrov stressed.
-Oil, economics, trade
Asked how restoring the deal might affect oil markets, Lavrov said it would affect the OPEC plus agreement and oil prices.
However, he said Russia condemns benefits acquired through “illegal methods” of unilateral sanctions and violations of the principles of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
"When politics is developed to achieve economic benefits through unilateral, illegal sanctions, and in direct violation of the Security Council resolution, and in violation of the norms and principles of the WTO, we categorically condemn such a policy and such benefits cannot be achieved by illegal methods," he said.
In 2018 the US unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal and reintroduced sanctions on Iran over oil exports.
A year later, Iran announced it was suspending part of its obligations under the deal.
- US, Israel, Natanz
For his part, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called Moscow a “strategic neighbor” and commended its stance on the nuclear deal, US sanctions, and Sunday’s explosion at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility.
Iran’s top diplomat said regional developments and the deal are among the “main areas of cooperation” between the two countries.
Zarif also said the US “must return to its commitments and lift all sanctions” and Iran will return to full compliance with the deal after verification.
“Americans should know that sanctions are not a tool to gain concessions from Iran, but are a burden on US foreign policy, which to date has backfired,” he said.
He also accused the US of complicity in Sunday’s explosion, which led to a blackout at the facility, an incident Iran has blamed on Israel.
The US has denied any role in the incident, but experts say it risks derailing efforts in Vienna to restore the nuclear deal.
Zarif said the nuclear facility “will move forward with more advanced centrifuges and more power,” echoing the words of Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s nuclear agency.
He said an investigation is underway into the incident and if an Israeli role is established, Iran will give a “fitting reply.”
Flanked by Lavrov, Zarif also lashed out at the European Union for imposing sanctions on Iranian officials and entities, saying the EU must “put aside its empty human rights gestures.”
“Europe is not in a morally superior position and cannot preach to the world,” Zarif asserted, blasting “xenophobia and anti-Islamism” that he alleged have created “terrible conditions for Muslims.”
He said Iran could impose sanctions on individuals in the European Union in response to EU sanctions announced Monday.
Lavrov arrived in Tehran on Tuesday for an official visit at the invitation of Zarif, said Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh.
He said the two sides would hold consultations on bilateral and regional issues, including the 2015 nuclear deal, US sanctions, developments in the Caucasus, Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan, as well as cooperation between the two sides in major regional and international organizations.
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