US says Russia still engaged in talks on Iran nuclear deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Moscow has an interest in preventing Tehran obtaining weapons of mass destruction

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said efforts are continuing to try to achieve 'mutual compliance with Iran on the deal'. AFP

The US said on Tuesday that Russia remains engaged in talks to revive the Iran nuclear deal, despite the invasion of Ukraine throwing up a potential sticking point.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it was in Russia’s interest to make a deal that would restore limits on Iran’s nuclear activities.

Western diplomats have described those negotiations as entering their final phase after 11 months of talks in Vienna between Iran, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, China, the EU and — indirectly — the US.

Russia threw in a potential complication last weekend by demanding written assurances from Washington that sanctions over Ukraine would not impede Russian economic ties with Iran.

Asked on a visit to Estonia whether Moscow was frustrating progress, Mr Blinken said: “We continue to work to see if we can come back to mutual compliance with Iran on the deal.

“Russia continues to be engaged in those efforts and it has its own interests in ensuring that Iran is not able to acquire a nuclear weapon.”

The deal signed in 2015 limits enrichment and other nuclear activities by Iran in exchange for sanctions being lifted. The US pulled out of the deal in 2018, prompting Tehran to breach its commitments under the pact.

Western powers have said that time is running out because a continued nuclear build-up by Iran would eventually render the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action pointless.

The EU’s top negotiator in the talks, Enrique Mora, said expert-level talks were over and that it was time for “political decisions” on whether to revive the JCPOA.

He said those decisions should come in the next few days after it emerged that Iranian negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani was returning to Tehran for what state media said were routine consultations with officials.

Iran separately struck a deal last weekend with the International Atomic Energy Agency aimed at resolving the UN body’s questions about unexplained nuclear sites in the country.

Although those inquiries are separate from the JCPOA talks, both sides have said that resolving the first might help reach an agreement on the second.

Updated: March 08, 2022, 2:23 PM