Russia calls on US to show ‘flexibility' on Iran nuclear deal

"I am concerned that we might not make it over the finishing line," European Union Ambassador to the United Nations Olof Skoog told the UNSC.

former Iranian president Hassan Rouhani reviews Iran's new nuclear achievements during Iran's National Nuclear Energy Day in Tehran, Iran April 10, 2021. (photo credit: IRANIAN PRESIDENCY OFFICE/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
former Iranian president Hassan Rouhani reviews Iran's new nuclear achievements during Iran's National Nuclear Energy Day in Tehran, Iran April 10, 2021.
(photo credit: IRANIAN PRESIDENCY OFFICE/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

The United States must take a more “flexible” stand toward Tehran to ensure the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal, Russian envoy Mikhail Ulyanov said, as European and American officials cast doubt on the possibility of progress.

“My assessment: despite all the difficulties, the nuclear deal still can be restored. For this to happen the US should demonstrate greater flexibility,” Ulyanov tweeted on Friday.

He spoke up after Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Alexeyevich Ryabkov met with his Iranian counterpart Kani Bagheri in Moscow.

Ulyanov, who is the Russian representative to international organizations in Vienna, also attended the meeting.

Despite that optimism, indirect US-Iran talks ended in Doha last week with no sign of progress on resurrecting the pact under which Tehran limited its nuclear program in return for relief from the US, United Nations and European Union sanctions.

 European External Action Service (EEAS) Deputy Secretary General Enrique Mora and Iranian Deputy at Ministry of Foreign Affairs Abbas Araghchi wait for the start of talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in Vienna, Austria June 20, 2021 (credit: REUTERS) European External Action Service (EEAS) Deputy Secretary General Enrique Mora and Iranian Deputy at Ministry of Foreign Affairs Abbas Araghchi wait for the start of talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in Vienna, Austria June 20, 2021 (credit: REUTERS)

“The prospects for a deal after Doha are worse than they were before Doha and they will be getting worse by the day.”

Senior US official

“The prospects for a deal after Doha are worse than they were before Doha and they will be getting worse by the day,” the senior US official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

“You could describe Doha at best as treading water, at worst as moving backwards. But at this point treading water is for all practical purposes moving backwards,” he added.

On Thursday in New York, the UN Security Council met to discuss the latest report by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the implementation of a 2015 council resolution that enshrines the 2015 nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“I am concerned that we might not make it over the finishing line. My message is: Seize this opportunity to conclude the deal, based on the text that is on the table. The time to overcome the last outstanding issues, conclude the deal, and fully restore the (agreement) is now,” European Union Ambassador to the United Nations Olof Skoog told the UN Security Council.

The EU has been the main broker for the indirect talks between Tehran and Washington to restore the deal, under which Iran limited its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. In 2018, however, the US exited the deal and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran.

US President Joe Biden has pushed to revive the deal since entering office in January 2021, with little success.

Richard Mills, Deputy US Ambassador to the United Nations said that “Iran has yet to demonstrate any real urgency to conclude a deal, end the current nuclear crisis and achieve important sanctions lifting.”

China blamed the US for the current situation, explaining to the UNSC that the deal would still be in place if the Trump administration had not exited the JCPOA in 2018.

A Russian representative similarly fingered Washington and called on the Biden administration to lift its crippling sanctions. All of Iran’s actions were in response to the US violations of the deal in imposing the sanctions, the Russian envoy said. If Washington returned to compliance with the JCPOA, Iran would likely do the same, he added.

China and Russia were among six signatories to the 2015 deal with Tehran along with the US, France, Germany and Great Britain.

The latter three countries, known as the E3, issued a statement of concern prior to the meeting.

“The installation and use of additional powerful advanced centrifuges and the removal of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s JCPOA-related surveillance and monitoring equipment,” the E3 said.

“Iran’s actions are rapidly unsettling the balance of the package we had negotiated over many months to restore the JCPOA and closing the window for an immediate diplomatic solution. The impact on international security and the international non-proliferation regime of such an outcome would be grave and long-lasting,” the E3 added.

France’s Ambassador Nicolas De Riviere said, “not only has Iran not taken up the offer on the table, but it also added yet more issues which fall outside the JCPOA with maximalist and unrealistic demands.”

Iran, however, described the latest talks as “serious and positive” and said it was ready to strike an agreement.

“Iran has demanded verifiable and objective guarantees from the US that JCPOA will not be torpedoed again, that the US will not violate its obligations again, and that sanctions will not be re-imposed under other pretexts or designations,” Iran’s UN Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi told the council.

Ravanchi blamed Israel for providing the International Atomic Energy Agency with erroneous information with the intent of thwarting any deal.

“The agency’s recent claims are based solely on erroneous and fabricated information provided by the Israeli regime who has done all in its power to kill the JCPOA.”