The Iranian Nuclear Talks Have Been Hampered By Russian Demands

On Sunday, talks to resurrect Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers stalled after Russia demanded a promise from the US that the sanctions it faces over the Ukraine conflict will not harm its trade with Tehran. On Saturday, Moscow threw a monkey in the works, warning that Western sanctions over Ukraine had become a stumbling block for the nuclear deal, just as months of indirect talks between Tehran and Washington in Vienna looked to be heading for an agreement.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken sought to dispel such chatter, saying that sanctions placed on Russia over Ukraine had nothing to do with a possible nuclear deal with Iran. Blinken said a potential deal with Iran was close, but warned that “a few of extremely tough remaining issues” remained unaddressed in an appearance with CBS’s “Face the Nation” show. However, a senior Iranian official told Reuters earlier that Tehran was waiting for clarification from Moscow on Lavrov’s remarks, which stated that Russia wanted a written guarantee from the US that the sanctions would not impede Russia’s trade, investment, or military-technical cooperation with Iran in any way.

“It is necessary to understand clearly what Moscow wants. If what they demand is related to the JCPOA, it would not be difficult to find a solution for it,” The Iranian official was referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which was signed in 2015. “But it will be complicated, if the guarantees that Moscow has demanded, are beyond the JCPOA.” Diplomats from the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, who had flown home before Lavrov’s remarks to brief policymakers on the nuclear discussions, have not said when they will return to Vienna. Iranian negotiators met with EU ambassador Enrique Mora on Sunday, who is in charge of coordinating negotiations between Tehran and foreign powers.

Senior Iranian authorities have pushed for closer ties with Russia since the inauguration of hardline President Ebrahim Raisi last year. Due to his intense hatred of the United States, Iran’s top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, has officially and privately called for closer ties with Russia. The 2015 agreement between Iran and the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, and China reduced sanctions in exchange for Iran’s uranium enrichment being limited, making it more difficult for Tehran to develop nuclear weapons material. After President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the agreement in 2018, everything fell apart. The return of Iranian oil would help replace Russian barrels lost as the US and its allies sought to isolate Moscow in the aftermath of the invasion, softening the blow to the West, which is already dealing with high inflation.

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Iranian-American father and son Baquer and Siamak Namazi, according to US negotiator Robert Malley, sealing the nuclear treaty are unlikely until Tehran releases four US citizens, including Baquer and Siamak Namazi. According to a senior Iranian official in Tehran, the prisoner’s issue may be resolved with or without a resurrection of the nuclear deal if Tehran’s demands are met. Iran, which does not recognize dual nationality, disputes that it uses detainees to gain diplomatic influence. Hundreds of dual citizens and foreigners have been arrested by the Revolutionary Guards in recent years, usually on espionage and security-related allegations.

Tehran has requested the release of more than a dozen Iranians detained in the United States, including seven Iranian-American dual nationals, two Iranians with permanent residency in the United States, and four Iranian citizens with no legal status in the country.


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