Russia pushes US to be ‘more active’ on Iran diplomacy

The Biden administration is not doing enough to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and other world powers, says Sergey Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks to reporters at a news conference during the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday in New York.  Image: AP
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has called on the US to play a “more active” role in resuming stalled talks aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

"It seems evident they should be more active" in "resolving all issues related" to the agreement, Mr Lavrov told reporters on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Moscow's top diplomat said he hoped talks on the strained arms control agreement between Iran, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany would resume “as soon as possible”.

The negotiations, brokered by the Europeans, seek the return of the US to the 2015 agreement that was scrapped by former US president Donald Trump, as well as Iran’s return to full compliance to the deal.

Mr Trump pulled Washington out in 2018, reinstating sanctions on Iran that the US had lifted as part of the deal. Tehran has since then backed away from many of its own commitments.

US President Joe Biden has indicated he wants to return to the deal, but his administration has expressed impatience at the stalled talks, which slowed to a standstill after hardliner Ebrahim Raisi was elected Iranian president in June.

In his first speech to the General Assembly earlier this week, Mr Raisi criticised Washington, saying “We don’t trust the promises made by the US government,” but didn’t rule out talks on the accord.

Iranian president attacks 'US hegemony' in first UN General Assembly speech

Iranian president attacks 'US hegemony' in first UN General Assembly speech

In fact, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian told state-run IRIN news on Saturday that Tehran will return to talks “very soon,” but was vague on what that actually means.

“People keep asking how soon is soon," Mr Amirabdollahian said. "Does it mean days, weeks or months?

“The difference between Iranian and Western ‘soon’ is a lot," he said.

"To us, ‘soon’ means really in the first opportune time."

He reminded the West of their “promises," including "repeatedly promising they would ‘soon’, ‘in a few months,’ implement the Instex," - a trade mechanism set up to barter humanitarian goods and food after the U.S. withdrawal from the deal.

Mr Lavrov, at the same briefing at the UN, also talked about developments in Afghanistan.

He said the Taliban were still a long way from gaining international recognition following the group’s rapid return to power in Afghanistan last month.

“The question of international recognition of the Taliban at the present juncture is not on the table,” said Mr Lavrov.

“What’s most important … is to ensure that the promises that they have proclaimed publicly to be kept ... And for us, that is the top priority.”

The Taliban has nominated an envoy to represent it at the UN, setting up a showdown over Afghanistan's seat at the world body in a committee comprising Russia, China, the US and others.

He said the US and Nato pullout “was carried out without any consideration of the consequences … that there are many weapons left in Afghanistan.”

It remains critical, he said, that such weapons aren’t used for “destructive purposes.”

Russia has responded with some alarm at the prospect of instability on the borders of neighbouring states like Tajikistan where it recently held a joint military drill involving 2,500 servicemen, hundreds of armoured vehicles and 25 aircraft.

Updated: September 26, 2021, 4:08 PM