Russia’s last-minute demands over the Ukraine conflict threatened to derail the near-complete process of reviving the Iran nuclear deal on Friday, as the EU announced talks would be shelved. stop.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted that the pause was “due to external factors”, despite the fact that “a final text is essentially ready and on the table”.
The current round of negotiations began at the end of November in the Austrian capital Vienna between Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran and Russia, with indirect participation from the United States.
They are almost all the way towards their goal – the revival of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which began to unravel when former US President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement in 2016. 2018.
The EU diplomat who presided over the negotiations, Enrique Mora, told reporters that the delegations had reached the point of “negotiation footnotes”.
He specifically praised the US and Iran for their “very constructive, very positive approach”, adding that he hoped to see talks resumed “very, very soon”.
However, last week, Russia said it was asking for assurances that Western sanctions imposed on its economy following the invasion of Ukraine would not affect its trade with Iran.
Like the original JCPOA in 2015, Moscow is expected to play some role in the implementation of any new deal, for example by receiving shipments of enriched uranium from Iran.
“The Ukraine conflict has now entered the Vienna talks in a very real way,” Eric Brewer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative told AFP.
He said the “overarching guarantee” that Moscow demanded “put a key to this process at the last minute, actually threatening to ruin the negotiations and prevent the JCPOA’s resumption.”
The United States on Friday threw the ball into the courts of Iran and Russia following the EU statement.
State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters: “We are confident that we can achieve a return to compliance … (if) those decisions are made in places like Tehran and Moscow.
– Energy ‘Weapon’ –
An EU source close to the negotiations said that Russia had initially made “reasonable” demands regarding its civilian nuclear activities in Iran, but those requests were later rejected. extended “outside the scope of the JCPOA”.
Another diplomat from one of the European parties involved in the transaction said that “if the Russian bloc is confirmed as definitive, we will be obliged to consider other options”, adding that Moscow cannot be permission to “take this deal hostage”.
The head of the British delegation Stephanie al-Qaq tweeted that she was “deeply disappointed” by the pause in the talks.
The last-minute entanglement must be resolved in the “next few days”, she warned, or the deal “is likely to go bankrupt”.
After withdrawing from the JCPOA, Trump continued to re-impose sanctions on Iran, including its vital oil sector.
That has led Iran to begin flouting the restrictions placed in the deal on its nuclear activities.
The JCPOA is intended to ensure that Iran will not be able to develop a nuclear weapon, which it has always refused to seek.
Clement Therme, an Iran expert at France’s Paul Valery University, told AFP: “Russia’s move could be to delay the resumption of the deal to avoid flooding the market with Iranian oil.”
“To keep prices high, the Kremlin can use energy as a weapon against the West,” he added.
– Russia denies the blame –
As for Iran itself, “the Islamic Republic has no standing against Russia’s strategy,” Therme said.
“Moscow is taking advantage of Iran’s weakness.”
Tehran itself has blamed the US for “creating a challenge” in the final stages of the talks.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a tweet on Friday that “no external factors have influenced our common will to work towards a collective agreement”.
Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, told reporters outside the meeting venue that he rejected “attempts to blame the Russian Federation”, while stressing that other parties were involved in the negotiations. “need more time”.
A European source said Iran and China are now putting pressure on Moscow to ensure the deal is not affected.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a press release)