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Russia, China rebuke fresh US sanctions on Iran amid Vienna talks

The United States Department of the Treasury is seen in Washington, DC, August 30, 2020. (File photo by Reuters)

Russia and China have criticized the United States’ fresh round of sanctions on Iran, urging Washington to demonstrate a more constructive approach and to actively respond to the legitimate concerns of the Iranian side in the course of negotiations in Vienna to revive the 2015 deal.

In a tweet on Friday, Russia’s lead negotiator to the Vienna talks Mikhail Ulyanov said the new US sanctions indicate that the US is trying to preserve some sanctions slapped by former President Donald Trump on the Islamic Republic.

“The #ViennaTalks on #JCPOA remain on hold for 2, 5 months. Looks like the #US tries to preserve some #sanctions imposed by D. Trump in #Iran,” Ulyanov wrote in his tweet.

“#Washington needs to demonstrate a more constructive and businesslike approach if [it] is really committed to nuclear #nonproliferation.”

On Wednesday, the United States imposed sanctions on what it described as a Russian-backed oil smuggling and money laundering network for the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)’s Quds Force.

The US Treasury Department claimed the network was led by current and former Quds Force figures, “backed by senior levels of the Russian Federation government,” and included Chinese companies and a former Afghan diplomat.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry slammed the sanctions as an illegal action and “another sign of the US government’s ill will toward the Iranian people and an extension of the disastrous ‘maximum pressure’ policy.”

Trump launched the so-called maximum pressure policy of sanctions against Iran in 2018 after unilaterally withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which had promised Iran an irreversible sanctions relief.

Under Joe Biden, Washington voiced willingness to rejoin the JCPOA and repeal the maximum pressure campaign. The Vienna talks were launched in April last year under that claim, only to come to a pause a few months ago as the US insisted on maintaining some of its illegal sanctions.

In earlier remarks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin also criticized the new anti-Iran sanctions, saying the US continues to tighten sanctions on Iran despite acknowledging that its maximum pressure policy has failed.

“Oddly, having acknowledged its own mistakes, the US is still tightening sanctions on Iran, instead of reflecting on its approach,” Wang said, referring to remarks made by US special envoy for Iran Robert Malley at a testimony to Congress on Wednesday.

“Such moves won’t help break the deadlock on the talks, but will only undermine the negotiation process and further tarnish the US’ reputation.”

He argued as the party that created the current crisis, the United States “should make political decisions as soon as possible, actively respond to the legitimate concerns of the Iranian side and facilitate a smooth conclusion of the negotiations.”

The Chinese spokesman said his country continues to support the political settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue.

“We will continue to participate in negotiations constructively, help bring the JCPOA back to the normal track at an early date, uphold the international non-proliferation system and promote peace and stability in the Middle East.”

Malley told Congress on Wednesday that the prospects of a US return to the JCPOA are “tenuous at best,” but added that the Biden administration still believes it is in the national security interest of the United States to try to salvage the agreement.

“As I speak to you today, we do not have a deal, and prospects for reaching one are tenuous at best,” he told lawmakers, as he acknowledged that Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy had failed.

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