Iran blames US for JCPOA delays as top diplomat heads to Russia

The Iranian foreign minister says Washington is trying to blame Russia for the delay in nuclear talks progress.

Tehran, Iran – Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian will head to Moscow on Tuesday for talks with his Russian counterpart, the Iranian foreign ministry has announced, as it doubled down on its position that the United States is preventing an agreement in the nuclear deal talks held in Vienna.

Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatbizadeh told reporters on Monday that Amirabdollahian’s meeting with Sergey Lavrov will mainly focus on the discussions in the Austrian capital to restore the Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the deal is formally known.

Khatibzadeh said the pause in the talks announced by European coordinators on Friday does not signal an impasse. He also portrayed Russia’s last-minute demand that sanctions related to its invasion of Ukraine will not affect its future dealings with Iran, pointing to other proposals brought on the table by the various negotiating sides since the beginning of the talks in April 2021.

The spokesman stressed that reports by Western media that the talks are mostly held up by Russia’s demand are part of the US strategy.

“Downgrading what is happening in Vienna to one element – meaning Russia’s demand – is what the US wants so everyone would forget its own responsibilities. No one must forget that the party responsible for the fact that we are still at the point of non-agreement is the US,” he said.

“All the issues are on the US basket, and we announce that if Washington adopts a suitable political decision today, delegations can return to Vienna tomorrow,” Khatibzadeh said, adding that Russia and China have had the most supportive attitude since the start and Iran was confident that that would continue.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week the US was “ready to make peace with Iran, immediately sign all the documents, and with Venezuela” to control oil prices.

The Wall Street Journal on Sunday quoted an unnamed senior US official as saying an interim deal or a “replica of the JCPOA” without Russia were among options if Russia did not back down from its demands.

But Khatibzadeh on Monday rejected the idea of a new nuclear agreement, or an interim one, without Russia.

That was welcomed by Russia’s chief JCPOA negotiator in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, who wrote in a tweet, “Clear position. No ambiguities. No room for speculations.”

The US has rejected the Russian demand as “irrelevant” while the so-called E3 countries – France, Germany and the United Kingdom – have warned it could lead to the collapse of the talks. Western parties also continue to maintain that the talks cannot go on for much longer due to Iran’s nuclear advances.

Iran has boosted its uranium enrichment to 60 percent using advanced centrifuges, but has maintained that it will never seek a nuclear weapon.

Meanwhile, a majority of Iranian lawmakers on Sunday said high global oil prices give Iran the upper hand in the Vienna talks and it should use the opportunity to press its demands.

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