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Euro diplomat: Hope we will be able to conclude Iran deal, after Russia says received assurances
Russia still needs to withdraw a list of demands it submitted to the Joint Commission.
“I hope that we will be able to conclude in the coming days,” a European negotiator.
“We have received written guarantees – they are included in the very text of the agreement on reviving the JCPOA,” Russia FM Sergei Lavrov
“We would of course not sanction Russian participation in nuclear projects that are part of resuming full implementation of the JCPOA,” a State Department spokesperson
“While Lavrov’s statement today is a positive sign, the concrete proof of Russia’s climb down from its demands is the rescinding of the papers they submitted to the Joint Commission last week,” Crisis Group’s Ali Vaez
“Reassured that Russia remains onboard for the final agreement in Vienna,’ Iran FM Amir-Abdollahian
A European negotiator said today he hopes that the parties will be able to conclude the deal on restoring the Iran nuclear pact in the coming days, after Russia’s Foreign Minister said today that Russia has received guarantees that it can fulfill its implementation role despite US sanctions on Russia over the war in Ukraine.
“I hope that we will be able to conclude in the coming days,” a European negotiator, speaking not for attribution, told me.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi also said he hopes a deal could be finalized shortly.
“I think we are,” IAEA DG Grossi told France 24 in an interview today (March 15), in response to a question,* does he think we are on the verge of an Iran deal.
“I am very glad to hear that Foreign Minister Lavrov is saying that he has received this information from the United States,” Grossi continued. “I hope we can have this agreement soon and start working. My inspectors are ready to go.”
“We have received written guarantees – they are included in the very text of the agreement on reviving the JCPOA,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a news conference in Moscow today with visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, referring to the acronym for the formal name of the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“In these texts there is a reliable defense of all the projects provided for by the JCPOA and those activities – including the linking up of our companies and specialists," Lavrov said.
While Lavrov’s public comments sounded like a potential breakthrough on the matter, Russia still needs to withdraw a list of demands it submitted to the Joint Commission, the body that oversees implementation of the nuclear pact, said Ali Vaez, director of the Iran program at the International Crisis Group. Those demands were a major factor that led the Vienna talks on restoring the deal to be paused last week.
“While Lavrov’s statement today is a positive sign, the concrete proof of Russia’s climb down from its demands is the rescinding of the papers they submitted to the Joint Commission last week,” Vaez told me.
The State Department has maintained that its recent sanctions on Russia over its war on Ukraine were not going to interfere with Russia fulfilling projects as part of resuming full implementation of the Iran nuclear deal, and said it did not offer guarantees beyond that.
“We would of course not sanction Russian participation in nuclear projects that are part of resuming full implementation of the JCPOA,” a State Department spokesperson said in response to a query about Lavrov’s reported comments.
“We cannot provide assurances beyond that to Russia and have no comment on FM Lavrov’s publicly reported remarks,” the spokesperson’s emailed comment continued.
“Perhaps it is now clear to Moscow that, as we have said publicly, the new Russia-related sanctions are unrelated to the JCPOA and should not have any impact on its implementation,” it said.
The Iranian foreign minister Amir-Abdollahian said he had had productive meetings in Moscow, and had received assurances that Russia remains on board for finalizing restoration of the deal.
“Reassured that Russia remains onboard for the final agreement in Vienna,” Amir-Abdollahian tweeted.
“More than ever, ball is in US court to provide the responses needed for successful conclusion of the talks.”
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said if the Russia issue is resolved, there were still a small number of outstanding issues to be resolved to finalize the agreement, under which the United States would return to the deal, and Iran would resume its full implementation.
“We have engaged with the Russian Federation on the possibility of a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA, but as I said the other day, there were a small number of outstanding issues,” Price told journalists at the State Department press briefing today. “So we’re not there yet.”
US Iran envoy Rob Malley and team would be prepared to go back to Vienna if appropriate, State’s Price said.
Then-US President Trump quit the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and imposed “maximum pressure” in the form of harsh sanctions on Iran. In response, Iran since 2019 has been progressively exceeding the deal’s nuclear limits to protest the lack of sanctions relief it was entitled to.
Hints of progress on UK Iran prisoner issue
Separately, there were reports today of potential progress towards a possible prisoner release of British-Iranian dual nationals in Iran.
Iranian authorities have returned her British passport to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, her member of parliament tweeted today. A British negotiating team was said to be in Iran to try to advance the matter, the MP also said.
“I am very pleased to say that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been given her British passport back,” MP Tulip Siddiq tweeted.
“She is still at her family home in Tehran,” Siddiq tweeted. “I also understand there is a British negotiating team in Tehran right now.”
Iranian journalist Sara Massoumi earlier today reported that a deal seemed imminent for the release of Zaghari-Ratcliffe and another British-Iranian dual national. She said that a British debt for a pre-Iran revolution order of tanks had “apparently” been paid.
The Qatari foreign minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani also traveled to Russia on Sunday and was thought to be meeting with Russian officials about the Iran issue, among other matters. The Iran issue, however, was not mentioned in the official Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs readout of Lavrov and al-Thani’s meeting on March 14.
Iran foreign minister Amir-Abdollahian led a delegation to Moscow that included foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh, Deputy Minister of Economic Diplomacy (and former Iranian ambassador to Russia and China) Mehdi Safari; Director General and Assistant Secretary of State for Eurasian Affairs Alireza Haghighian; and Assistant Secretary of State for Special Political Affairs Ali Ashgar Khaji, Iranian journalist M. Poorsadeghi tweeted.
I previously reported that Khaji led the Iranian delegation to then-secret talks with the United States in early 2013 that were held in Oman.
*Correction: Corrected a quote I had attributed to IAEA DG Grossi which had incorrectly conflated what the host asked and Grossi’s response.
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