Russia says U.S. pressure prompted Iran to resume 20% uranium enrichment

January 6, 2021 - 22:52

TEHRAN - Iran’s decision to resume 20% uranium enrichment at the Fordow nuclear facility was due to U.S. pressure, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

Zakharova reacted to the recent move by Iran to substantially raise the level of uranium enrichment to 20% at the Fordow fuel enrichment plant. In an interview with the Russian TASS news agency, she said Iran’s resumption of uranium enrichment to 20% is a departure from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, officially called the Comprehensive Joint Plan of Action (JCPOA). But she also said that there are no claims to make against Iran as the country is coordinating its recent nuclear move with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Zakharova underlined that Iran’s decision to enrich uranium to 20% does not go against Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

“This question has nothing to do with Iran’s compliance with its obligations under the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement or the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty. From this standpoint there are no claims to make against the Iranian side. All material enriched to 20% remains under the IAEA control. The Agency has not exposed any attempts to use it for undeclared purposes that might contradict the NPT,” the spokeswoman said. “At the same time, the resumption of uranium enrichment to 20% is a departure from the agreements enshrined in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for a settlement over the Iranian nuclear program.”

She added that Iran made the decision to raise the level of uranium enrichment due to U.S. pressure.

“In recent years the international community developed the clear awareness that the root cause of such deviations should be seen in systematic crude violations of international obligations by the United States, which in defiance of article 25 of the UN Charter ignores the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2231 and deliberately poses obstructions to its implementation by other countries,” Zakharova continued.

According to the spokeswoman, the U.S. sanctions had targeted the JCPOA project for converting the Fordow fuel enrichment plant in an unacceptable way.

Zakharova noted, “We have to recall once again that the JCPOA project for converting the FFEP to the production of stable isotopes has long been the target of Washington’s sanctions, which is absolutely unacceptable.”

She underlined that Moscow appreciated the Iranian side’s repeated statements it was prepared to resume full compliance with the agreements under the JCPOA, provided the balance of interests was observed. “However, the current realities as they are, extra efforts and costs will now be required to bring the Fordow facility in conformity with the JCPOA again,” she suggested.

Zakharova described Iran’s actions as being of “fundamental importance for further work to reconfigure this facility, which is an integral part of the nuclear deal.”

“The task of creating conditions for the stable implementation of comprehensive agreements has grown far more difficult,” she remarked, pointing out that during the December 21 JCPOA ministerial meeting Russia stressed more than once that “guidelines for normalization over JCPOA are found in the plan proper(ly)” and require systematic compliance with the agreements by all parties that developed and concluded them.

Zakharova said all JCPOA parties, including Iran, have underlined the need for resolving the challenges to the implementation of the JCPOA, adding that these parties called on the U.S. to change its “subversive” policies and return to its commitments under the JCPOA without preconditions.

“In the unanimously approved Joint Statement the vector for further onward movement was charted very clearly. All JCPOA signatories, including Iran, came out in favor of the need for handling the remaining challenges to the implementation of the JCPOA and urged the United States to instantly give up its subversive policies and to comply with all obligations assumed under the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2231 without any preconditions,” the spokeswoman said.

She also pointed out that when the U.S. returns to its obligations without any preconditions, Iran must be prepared to take reciprocal steps.

“We proceed from the understanding that this should be precisely the focus of all available resources. There should be persistent collective work for the elimination of the accrued problems and against creating new ones,” she concluded.

Earlier this week, Russia said that Iran’s decision to enrich to 20% was predictable.

“Yes, we should have expected something like that, especially in the light of the law adopted recently by the Iranian Parliament. The only question is if this step is being made by Tehran on the right time?” Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna, said in a tweet on Saturday.

The Russian diplomat was commenting on a tweet by Gerard Araud, the former French ambassador to the U.S., who said that the U.S. could have forecast Iran’s decision when it withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

“In a confrontation, you should always think of what could be the reaction of the other side if you make a move. Foreign policy is a chess game. When leaving the nuclear deal, the US could have forecast this one. I am only surprised the Iranians waited for so long,” the former French diplomat said in a tweet on Saturday.

On Monday, Iran formally started the process of enriching uranium to 20% at the Fordow nuclear facility at which Iran is not allowed to spin centrifuges according to the terms of the JCPOA.

“A few minutes ago, the process of producing enriched uranium to 20% purity has begun. And the first product of UF6 enriched uranium will be produced in a few hours,” Ali Rabiei, the Iranian government spokesman, announced on Monday morning.

The spokesman also said that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has issued an order stipulating that the recent nuclear law passed by the Iranian Parliament should be implemented.

Iran started the 20% uranium enrichment in accordance with the nuclear law, which stipulates that the Iranian government should take certain nuclear measures such as raising the level of uranium enrichment to 20% and suspending the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in few months if the Western parties failed to honor their obligations under the JCPOA.

Iran also said its nuclear move is reversible if the remaining parties to the JCPOA fully comply with their commitments under the deal.

“We resumed 20% enrichment, as legislated by our Parliament. IAEA has been duly notified. Our remedial action conforms fully with Para 36 of JCPOA, after years of non-compliance by several other JCPOA participants. Our measures are fully reversible upon FULL compliance by ALL,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet on Monday.

Iran has said that it may raise the level of uranium enrichment to even higher percentages. Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said on Tuesday that Iran is capable of enriching uranium to 60% purity and installing more advanced centrifuges such as IR2M, IR4 and IR6. According to Kamalvandi, Iran is currently using IR1 centrifuges to enrich uranium to 20%. Also on Tuesday, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, announced that Tehran is currently working to install 1,000 IR2m centrifuges. Salehi also said that Iran has installed at least two cascades of this type of centrifuges, both of which total more than 320 IR2m centrifuges.


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