Russia demands US guarantees on revival of Iran nuclear deal

Russia is seeking written assurances from Washington that US sanctions imposed on the country do not hamper its ability to trade with Iran, a move that risks complicating efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

Moscow made the request as Western officials say they are close to a deal with Iran that would bring the United States back into the deal Tehran signed with world powers. This would mean that the Islamic republic would limit its nuclear activity in exchange for sanctions relief.

Russia, a signatory to the deal with the UK, France, Germany and China, was involved in negotiations in Vienna aimed at salvaging the deal.

Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, told reporters on Saturday that Moscow wanted the United States to ensure that sanctions against Russia do not infringe “our right to free and full trade, economic and investment and military-technical cooperation with Islam”. Republic”.

“Everything would have been fine, but the avalanche of aggressive sanctions that erupted from the west . . . demand further understanding,” he said, quoted by Interfax, the Russian news agency. “We have need guarantees that these very sanctions will not affect the regime of trade, economic and investment links integrated into the [nuclear deal].”

The US, EU and UK have imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia since its invasion of Ukraine, including those aimed at freezing the assets of Presidents Vladimir Putin and Lavrov.

Iran transferred enriched uranium to Russia after the 2015 nuclear deal was signed and is expected to reduce its stockpiles again if a new deal is reached.

Ali Vaez, an Iran expert with the Crisis Group think tank, said Moscow’s demands were a “sign that the mixture of the two issues [the Russian invasion and the Iran talks] has begun.” He also said the United States could grant waivers for work related to the transfer of excess fissile material to Russia.

Iran has stepped up its nuclear activity since US President Donald Trump’s decision in 2018 to unilaterally abandon the deal and impose waves of crippling sanctions on the Islamic republic.

President Joe Biden’s administration has pledged to join the deal and lift numerous sanctions if Tehran returns to comply with the original accord. He had indirect talks with Iranian negotiators, mediated by the EU, in Vienna.

Western officials said this week they were close to reaching a deal, but warned there were still outstanding issues that needed to be resolved.

Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, met with Iranian officials in Tehran on Saturday to discuss one of the issues hampering progress in the talks: a dispute over an investigation blocked by the dog UN nuclear watchdog on traces of uranium found at old undeclared sites.

Tehran wants the investigation concluded, but Grossi said this week that “people cannot foresee a return” to the nuclear deal if there are unresolved issues with the IAEA. He said on Saturday he had a “very fruitful and intensive exchange” with Iran’s nuclear chief.

Other key sticking points include Tehran’s demands that the Biden administration provide guarantees that no future US president can unilaterally abandon the deal again.

Diplomats and analysts say it’s next to impossible for Biden to offer the guarantees Tehran is seeking, but negotiators have been working on some kind of assurance. There is also disagreement over which US sanctions would be lifted if Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activity.

Tehran wants all Trump-era sanctions lifted, including those related to alleged human rights abuses and terrorism allegations, not just economic measures.

Trump imposed sanctions on dozens of top Iranian officials, including President Ebrahim Raisi before he came to power last year, and the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He also called the elite Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization.

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