WWhile Iran announced a major concession on Saturday, a major obstacle to the Vienna nuclear talks emerged. Russia is now threatening to block a planned return to the 2015 nuclear agreement. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday called for “guarantees” that Russia could trade freely with Iran despite sanctions imposed over its incursion into Ukraine. This puts great pressure on the “Iran deal”, which these days was expected to hold a meeting of foreign ministers in Vienna.
And positive signs have already come from Tehran that Iran is ready to meet the demands of the International Atomic Energy Agency. “We have decided to provide the International Atomic Energy Agency with the necessary documents by June of this year,” the director of Iran’s nuclear program, Mohammad Eslami, said on Saturday at a joint press conference with the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, in Tehran. This move aims to enable constructive and professional cooperation between Iran and the IAEA in the future. Grossi noted that the IAEA is obligated to investigate open questions regardless of the sources from which the information that led to the questions came.
The open questions relate to nuclear remnants found by IAEA inspectors at two sites in Iran that have not been declared nuclear program sites. According to media reports, references to these places came from Western intelligence. But what seems clear is that these are traces of past activity, not signs of a current secret branch of the nuclear program. Therefore, Iran rejected these questions, describing them as “politicised.”
In the Vienna negotiations, Iran had set a condition that a line had to be drawn in the past. Western negotiators could not admit this because they could not make any commitments on behalf of the IAEA. Grossi has now traveled to Tehran to get his clarification. A joint appearance indicates that both parties agree to the action that has now been announced.
Materials for two bombs within a month
But the intervention now came from Moscow. Lavrov said on Saturday that the deal with Iran was close to completion. However, “recently problems have arisen from the point of view of Russian interests.” Lavrov referred to “a torrent of harsh sanctions launched by the West because of the conflict in Ukraine.” Moscow now needs “written guarantees” from the United States that the sanctions will not affect Russia’s rights under the nuclear deal. It concerns “unconstrained trade, economic and investment cooperation as well as military-technical cooperation with Iran”.
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