Tehran, Iran – Iran has said it will not allow foreign powers to force its hand and was awaiting clarification from Moscow after a new Russian demand about sanctions linked with Ukraine clouded the prospects of restoring a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
“While standing firm in maintaining our red lines, we won’t allow any foreign factors to impact our national interests” at the talks in Vienna, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian told a group of lawmakers on Monday, according to the foreign ministry.
His comments come after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov demanded a written guarantee from the United States that Western sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine will not hinder Moscow from trading and cooperating with Tehran.
Iran’s Tasnim news website quoted Russia’s ambassador to Tehran, Levan Dzhagaryan, as saying there has been a “misunderstanding” about Lavrov’s comments without elaborating further.
It remained to be seen what the last-minute Russian demand will entail for the talks in the Austrian capital that appeared to be very close to the finish line after more than 11 months on Friday, but faced new uncertainty on Saturday when Lavrov made the demand.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has called the demand “irrelevant” as he said the issue is unrelated to the talks – which are aimed at restoring the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the deal is formally known, by lifting US sanctions on Iran and again curbing Iran’s nuclear programme.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Monday that Tehran is waiting for more details from Moscow through diplomatic channels and has tried its best to keep the Vienna talks separate from other issues.
Amirabdollahian and Lavrov held a phone call on Monday, during which the Iranian foreign minister said, “It’s clear that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s cooperation with no country, including Russia, should be impacted by the atmosphere of sanctions.”
EU call for ‘political decisions’
Meanwhile, Iran’s security chief Ali Shamkhani said in a tweet that “it is understandable” that all countries act based on their national interests in Vienna, and pledged that Iran was searching for “creative ways” to achieve a successful conclusion of the talks.
In another tweet, he maintained that “Washington’s delay in making a decision” is the main reason the talks have been delayed.
Iranian media reported late on Monday that chief negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani will be back in Tehran within hours for a “short” period to consult. He had spoken with Russia’s lead negotiator Mikhail Ulyanov earlier in the day.
The chief negotiators of the E3 – France, Germany and the United Kingdom – had returned to their capitals on Friday. Enrique Mora, the EU’s coordinator for the nuclear deal talks, said it was time for “political decisions” to bring the talks to a successful conclusion.
Just to clarify. There are no longer "expert level talks". Nor "formal meetings". It is time, in the next few days, for political decisions to end the #ViennaTalks . The rest is noise. https://t.co/InuxzlBrCn
— Enrique Mora (@enriquemora_) March 7, 2022
To restore the accord that the US unilaterally abandoned in 2018, Iran has called for a wide range of sanctions to be lifted, guarantees the US will not renege again, and a mechanism to verify the effective lifting of sanctions.
The overwhelming majority of issues have been resolved, according to multiple sides, but several remain that Tehran has insisted fall within its “red lines” that it will not cross. Rescinding a “foreign terrorist organisation” designation for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is reportedly among those issues.
‘Successful’ IAEA talks in Tehran
Several issues also remained on the nuclear side, but it appeared more clarity was achieved on the most important subject on Saturday when the director of the global nuclear watchdog was in Tehran.
Rafael Grossi sat down with Iran’s nuclear chief and its foreign minister, and then Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) agreed on a plan to resolve an issue over undeclared radioactive particles found at several Iranian nuclear sites.
Grossi and Iranian nuclear chief Mohammad Eslami released a joint statement that said Iran will hand over documents to answer IAEA questions in the coming months and Grossi will reach conclusions before the IAEA Board of Governors meeting in early June.
The issue of the safeguards probes into the Iranian sites is technically separate from the Vienna talks, but as Grossi also said, “it would be difficult to imagine” a restored JCPOA without effective cooperation on the probes.
Russia’s chief negotiator in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, said in a tweet on Sunday that the meetings in Tehran were “very successful” as they helped set out “concrete steps” to resolve outstanding safeguards issues.
Iran had previously insisted the probes be closed as it said its nuclear programme was strictly peaceful.