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US still engaging with Russia on Iran nuclear deal: State Dept. official

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The US Department of State. (AP Photo)

A senior US State Department official says the United States continues to engage with Russia on reviving the Iran nuclear deal.  

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity said on Tuesday, said Moscow may grasp that the sanctions imposed on Russia over its ongoing military action in Ukraine have should not affect the nuclear agreement’s implementation.

The official said the US would not sanction Russian participation in nuclear projects that are part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), when it is fully implemented, according to Reuters.  

The US has accused Russia of undermining efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal. In response, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the US accusations were untrue.

Lavrov made the remarks following talks with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Moscow on Tuesday.

The Russian foreign minister said Moscow had received written American assurances that sanctions against Russia over Ukraine would not hinder cooperation within the framework of the nuclear agreement.

"We continue to engage with Russia on a return to full implementation of the JCPOA," the senior US State Department official said when asked about Lavrov's comments. "We would of course not sanction Russian participation in nuclear projects that are part of resuming full implementation of the JCPOA."

"We cannot provide assurances beyond that to Russia and have no comment on Lavrov’s publicly reported remarks," the official added. "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."

Iran’s foreign minister said in a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart, in Moscow that Russia had been playing a “very positive and constructive” role since the start of the latest round of negotiations in Vienna.

Russia, Amir-Abdollahian added, would continue to stand by Iran until the end of the Vienna process and throw its support behind a final deal, which can be inked if an agreement is reached with the US side on the remaining outstanding issues.

The United States under Donald trump left the multilateral Iran deal in 2018 and began to implement what it called the “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions against the Islamic Republic, depriving the country of the economic benefits of the agreement, including the removal of sanctions, for which Iran had agreed to put certain caps on its nuclear activities.

In the meantime, the other parties to the deal, in particular France, Britain and Germany, only paid lip service to safeguard Iran’s economic dividends as promised under the JCPOA, prompting Iran – after an entire year of “strategic patience” – to reduce its nuclear obligations in a legal move under the deal.

The Vienna talks began last April between Iran and the remaining parties to the JCPOA- Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China- on the assumption that the US, under the administration of President Joe Biden, is willing to repeal the so-called maximum pressure policy pursued by former president, Donald Trump, against Tehran.

Iran and the P4+1 group of countries on Friday announced a pause in the Vienna talks, with Tehran saying that all relevant parties will concentrate on a “successful conclusion” of the diplomatic process.


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