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Russia: Iran’s steps away from JCPOA due to halt in Vienna talks, US sanctions

A file photo of Iran’s IR4 uranium enrichment centrifuges

Russia says Iran’s decision to take more steps away from the 2015 nuclear deal by producing uranium metal and increasing uranium-enrichment capacities stem from a lack of progress in negotiations on a revival of the agreement as well as the US’s refusal to remove its unilateral sanctions against the Islamic Republic, calling for a swift resumption of the talks.

“Iran’s actions are yet another deviation from the agreements set forth in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for the settlement of the Iranian nuclear program (JCPOA), Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We understand that in many respects the reason for this step was the lack of specific practical results of efforts to restore the full implementation of the nuclear deal, while the unilateral US sanctions against Iran and other countries cooperating with it remain intact,” she said.

Over a week ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) noted in a report Iran’s progress in its work on enriched uranium metal, verifying that Iran had used “257 g of uranium enriched up to 20% U-235 in the form of UF4 (uranium tetrafluoride) to produce 200 g of uranium metal enriched up to 20% U-235.”

Zakharova expressed concerns that Iran’s reduction of its nuclear obligations under the JCPOA — which began a year after the US formally withdrew from the deal — is “further alienating us from the desired goal, and the task of creating conditions for the sustainable implementation of comprehensive agreements continues to become more difficult.”

Russia calls for a quick resumption of talks in Vienna on the restoration of the JCPOA, she said.

“We are convinced that the only way out of this situation is the early resumption of the negotiation process to revive the JCPOA. We call on all partners in the nuclear deal, as well as the United States to refrain from rash steps that will create additional obstacles to normalizing the situation around the Iranian nuclear program,” the Russian spokeswoman added.

Iran and the other parties to the nuclear pact — France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China —began talks in Vienna in early April to restore the JCPOA, whose life has been put in jeopardy since 2018, when former US president Donald Trump exited the deal. The US, under President Joe Biden, also sent a delegation to the Austrian capital to be involved in the talks indirectly, as Tehran refused to engage with Washington directly.

With Washington’s refusal to remove all of its sanctions and provide Tehran with a guarantee that it would not leave the JCPOA again, the negotiations reached an impasse under former Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, and were paused until the new administration of President Ebrahim Raeisi becomes fully functional.

‘Iranians have decisions to make’

The US, in its latest stance on the issue, placed the blame on Iran over the failure to reach a concrete agreement via the Vienna process, saying the Islamic Republic needs to make decisions about its stance.

“I know that the new government in Tehran is still in formation,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a press briefing on Monday. “They have decisions to make about their orientation not only towards the international community, but specifically towards diplomacy in the context of Vienna and diplomacy to see — test the proposition that we can effect a mutual return to compliance.”

He added, “So I will leave it to the Iranians to speak to where they are on this. We have made very clear where we are on this, and our allies and partners in the P5+1 context have made that very clear as well.”

Earlier in the day, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said the country’s stance has not changed on the JCPOA, in particular about the need for the US to remove its sanctions and for the other parties to fully meet their commitments under the deal, since the inauguration of the new administration.

Speaking at a weekly press briefing, Saeed Khatibzadeh also responded to a joint statement by the three European signatories to the JCPOA, saying Iran’s actions have been all in compliance with the Safeguards Agreement and the NPT, and they have been done with prior notification to the IAEA.

‘Iran cooperative in relations with IAEA’

Meanwhile, Laurence Norman from The Wall Street Journal claimed on Tuesday that the IAEA has written to Iran to seek access to Iranian nuclear sites to ensure monitoring equipment continues to function.

“I mentioned last week Aug 24 as an important marker to see if #Iran will still collect @iaeaorg camera footage & other monitoring info at nuclear-related sites to ensure no diversion of material, equipment for illicit purposes,” he said via Twitter.

“I understand the Agency wrote to #Iran last week seeking access this week to Iranian sites to update memory cards and the like to ensure monitoring equipment continues to function,” Norman said. “I understand that for now, #Iran has not responded to Agency's letter.”

Tehran has halted some of the IAEA’s activities in Iran by abandoning the country’s voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol that allowed the IAEA to carry out short-notice inspections in Iran, denying IAEA inspectors access to Iran’s nuclear facilities beyond the Safeguards Agreement with the intention of driving the other parties to the JCPOA to return to full compliance with the accord.

In response to Norman’s remarks, Russia’s ambassador to international organizations in Vienna said Iranians have proved many times that they are cooperative in their relations with the IAEA.

“My instinct tells me that it will not be a problem,” Mikhail Ulyanov said in a post on his Twitter account on Wednesday, referring to Iran’s cooperation with the Agency.

“The Iranian partners proved many times that they are prudent and cooperative in what regards relations with the #IAEA. No reason to expect that this can change,” he added.


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