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Russia criticizes EU pessimism over talks in Vienna to remove anti-Iran sanctions

Russia’s Ambassador to International Organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov (File photo by AP)

The Russian ambassador to international organizations in Vienna says his country believes, unlike the European Union, there are no reasons to be pessimistic about the fate of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, whose revival depends on a removal of all anti-Iran sanctions.

Mikhail Ulyanov made the remarks in response to an earlier tweet by European External Action Service (EEAS) Deputy Secretary General Enrique Mora, who is slated to visit Tehran on Thursday to discuss the resumption of the Vienna talks, almost four months after they were paused due to Iran’s change of administration and Washington’s failure to remove all the sanctions.

“Travelling to Tehran where I will meet my counterpart at a critical point in time,” Mora tweeted on Wednesday. “As coordinator of the JCPOA, I will raise the urgency to resume #JCPOA negotiations in Vienna. Crucial to pick up talks from where we left last June to continue diplomatic work.

Ulyanov pointed out that the approaches of Russia and the EU almost fully coincide regarding the issue, adding, “The slight difference is that in our view there are no reasons for pessimism with regard to #JCPOA. The #ViennaTalks will resume soon. No doubt about it.”

The nuclear deal, officially referred to as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was nixed by the former US administration of Donald Trump, who replaced the deal with a so-called maximum pressure campaign against Tehran.

Although the Joe Biden administration has voiced willingness to rejoin the JCPOA, Tehran says it has retained the Trump administration’s maximum pressure policy, which included draconian sanctions targeting Iran’s economy.

Meanwhile, Tehran has announced repeatedly that it will return to the talks on removing the US sanctions.

In a series of tweets early on Wednesday, Ulyanov also criticized France and the United States for their counterproductive tone with regard to the Vienna talks.

“Dear French colleagues, we fully understand and respect your feelings,” he said, after French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre told reporters that the new Iranian administration of President Ebrahim Raeisi raised doubts about its intention to return to the Vienna talks.

“But let’s refrain from hasty conclusions and judgments,” the Russian diplomat stated. “It is definitely not the right time for them. At this juncture they can be counterproductive.”

He then noted that the US negotiators “don’t fully understand” the consequences of the
"maximum pressure policy" being in full force against the Islamic Republic.

During an event hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, US special envoy for Iran Robert Malley said the US has made clear to Iran’s negotiators that “we are prepared to remove all of the sanctions that were imposed by the Trump administration that were inconsistent with the [nuclear] deal, and therefore we could get back to the business that we should have been on.”

“That’s where we are today, and I think that’s the choice that Iran faces,” Malley said. “Are they prepared to go back to that or do they want to choose a different path?”

In reaction, Ulyanov reiterated Iran’s position and said positive slogans are not sufficient.

“They need to be substantiated by concrete deeds. Good opportunity for that will come soon,” he remarked.

The lead Russian negotiator at the Vienna talks also pointed out that Trump’s maximum pressure policy led to the advancement of Iran’s nuclear program, expressing hopes that the Biden administration would be able to rectify “this almost catastrophic mistake.”

Since the beginning of the Vienna talks, Iran has frequently said that it seeks the removal of all US sanctions that were imposed after the JCPOA went into force in January 2016 and wants a guarantee from the US that it will not abandon the deal again.

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