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Iran asks for clarification from Russia on US ‘guarantee’

March 8, 2022 at 12:24 pm

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh in Tehran, Iran on 5 October 2020 [Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency]

Iran said, Monday, it has asked for clarification from Moscow over Russian demands for a “written guarantee” from the US regarding its cooperation with Tehran, Anadolu News Agency reports.

Foreign Ministry spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh, said he has heard Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s comments about guarantees from Washington that its cooperation with Tehran will not be hindered by sanctions imposed on Moscow over the Russian war in Ukraine.

He said Russia’s approach in the Vienna nuclear talks has been “constructive”, and its concerns in the wake of Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis are “understandable”.

Moscow has sought a “written guarantee” from the US that the sanctions imposed on it by the US-led NATO military coalition would not hamper its cooperation with Iran.

In remarks on Friday that have stirred up a hornet’s nest and fuelled speculation that Moscow could withdraw from the marathon talks, Lavrov said Russia wants a written guarantee that its trade and military cooperation with Iran would not be forestalled by recent sanctions.

“We want an answer – a very clear answer – we need a guarantee that these sanctions will not in any way touch the regime of trade, economic and investment relations which is laid down in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” Lavrov said.

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Under the 2015 nuclear deal, he noted, Russia and China – Tehran’s two all-weather-allies – would be permitted to help Iran develop its civilian nuclear program in line with non-proliferation guidelines.

Khatibzadeh said they have asked for the clarification and are looking to hear the details from Moscow through diplomatic channels.

“It is clear that the Vienna talks are moving in the right direction,” the spokesman said. “Iran’s peaceful nuclear cooperation should not be limited or affected by any sanctions, including Iran’s cooperation with China, Russia and other countries.”

On Sunday, Sayed Mohammad Marandi, a media adviser to Iran’s negotiating team in Vienna, also said that Iran was “waiting for clarification from Moscow about their demands from the US”.

It comes as the talks, which have been under way since April last year, are close to an agreement between Tehran and Washington, which would roll back Iran’s nuclear activities in return for relief from harsh sanctions.

Russia’s substitute

Experts believe that once sanctions are eased, Iran will be in a position to sell its vast reserves of oil and gas to Europe, replacing Russia as the main supplier. That will reduce Europe’s overwhelming dependence on Russian energy.

Although Western countries have not yet imposed direct sanctions on Russia’s oil and gas sector, there is speculation that if Iran steps in as Russia’s substitute, the sanctions would move ahead swiftly.

That, many believe, is causing jitters in Moscow.

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Last month, Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi, said Iran is ready to supply natural gas to the world, including Europe.

At the sixth summit of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) in Doha, Raisi said Iran as “one of the countries with the largest natural gas reserves” has the capacity to supply it to the world, calling for “security of the global energy market.”

Iranian Oil Minister, Javad Ojhi, later echoed Raisi’s remarks, saying Iran has the “necessary capacity” to supply gas to neighbouring countries and Europe.

Meanwhile, in a statement on Sunday, a spokesman for the US State Department said sanctions imposed on Russia over the war in Ukraine were “unrelated” to the Iran nuclear deal.

“The new Russia-related sanctions are unrelated to the JCPOA and should not have any impact on its potential implementation,” the spokesman noted.