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Iran credits Russia with 'constructive' role in nuclear talks despite holdups

Iran is downplaying last-minute demands from Russia and blaming the United States for delays in the nuclear talks.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh addressed the latest developments in the stalled talks that seek to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Khatibzadeh said that that the reason nuclear negotiators returned to their capitals was “for a short break.” He added that while some have described the talks as being at a “dead end or over,” the break was requested by members of the JCPOA Joint Commission. 

The current signatories to the JCPOA are Iran, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China. The United States exited the deal in 2018 under former President Donald Trump. The talks are intended to bring the United States back into the deal, remove sanctions and see Iran reduce its nuclear program to JCPOA-compliant levels. The talks had appeared to be reaching a conclusion when Russia made last-minute demands for written guarantees that Russian-Iranian trade would not be sanctioned once an agreement is reached.

Despite the Russian request, Iran is still trying to portray the United States as the obstinate party, with Khatibzadeh saying, “We are waiting for a response from the Americans.” He said that consultations are taking place at various levels and that the countries' foreign ministers are in contact. Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian is expected to travel to Moscow tomorrow. 

Khatibzadeh said that Russia’s demands were “openly presented" and "We have to discuss it at the Joint Commission meeting." He added, “The responsibility of the current situation that we are in is with the US.” He continued, “Russia and China’s behavior has been constructive and between the negotiators in Vienna has been the closest and supportive. We trust that this will continue until the end.” 

Khatibzadeh also accused the United States of making “strange” requests in the last 11 months. Although not officially a member of the JCPOA Joint Commission, Khatibzadeh conceded that whenever the United States made a request it would “enter indirectly” into the talks. The E3 (the United Kingdom, France and Germany) have acted as intermediaries between Iran and the United States. Iran has refused to hold direct talks with the United States until the country reenters the JCPOA. 

Khatibzadeh added that when President Joe Biden took office, he could have reversed Trump-era policies with an executive order but instead chose the path of the “complex Joint Commission negotiations.”

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