By Saeed Azimi & Mohammad Mazhari

Ulyanov: Russia views extraterritorial sanctions as illegitimate, counter-productive

January 11, 2022 - 21:35

TEHRAN — Substantive progress is being made as the talks in Vienna are being held in a calm atmosphere. However, Iran and the P4+1 group (Russia, China, France, UK and Germany) have differences over a number of issues.

Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian ambassador to the international organizations in Vienna and Moscow’s negotiator at the Vienna talks intended to revive the JCPOA, assesses the current atmosphere as “positive” despite the fact that atmosphere was “nervous and not positive” in the seventh round.

The seventh round of the talks began on November 29. It started since a new government came to power in Iran. Six rounds of talks were held until June, which had begun in April 2021.  

“I must tell you that the atmosphere in the course of the seventh round which lasted from November 29 to December 16 was rather nervous and not positive,” Ulyanov told Tehran Times in an exclusive interview on Tuesday. 

“I believe it is absolutely unrealistic” to talk about a “hypothetical completely new deal”. 

However, the ambassador added that the parties were able to reach a common ground and find a solution.

“We managed to find a solution collectively and the seventh round ended on a positive note,” he noted.

Russia’s top negotiator assessed the atmosphere in the eighth round of talks as “business-like and pragmatic.” 

“During the eighth round, which started on December 27 and still continues, the atmosphere is much better. It is business-like, pragmatic, and positive,” he added.

According to the ambassador, the Westerners are concerned about Iran’s developing nuclear program. 

“I observe some concerns on the part of Western participants in the talks in connection with continuing development of the Iranian nuclear program.”

Iran has repeatedly stated that if the parties return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), it will reverse its nuclear program in accordance to the JCPOA. But the condition set by Iran is clear. All parties must fully return to their JCPOA commitments.

“This is, I believe the only negative element which I can mention in connection with your question. Otherwise, the atmosphere, I repeat, is positive and business-like,” Ulyanov asserted.  

Answering a question about the Iranian delegation’s position in the talks, the ambassador evaluated the Iranian delegation’s position as positive, saying that the new negotiating team adapted themselves very quickly.

“Very positively. As a diplomat I know that it’s not easy for professionals to join a new process,” he noted.

“The Iranian part of the Vienna talks had to accommodate itself to the Vienna realities, experience, practices, and the Iranian colleagues did it very fast, maybe I say, incredibly fast, as they are very good professionals,” he remarked.  

About the economic benefits of the JCPOA for Iran and a fear by foreign companies to invest in Iran due to the U.S. unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA in 2018, the Russian diplomat noted that this makes Iran’s demands for guarantees “justifiable”, stressing Russia’s support for Iran.

“Well, you touched upon one of the most difficult questions. Indeed, the Iranian side, in an absolutely justifiable manner, insists on some guarantees. Guarantees that the previous adventure with JCPOA will not be repeated. This is absolutely understandable and we support the position of Iran in this regard. The problem is that in practice, in view of specifics of the Western governmental order, and the role of private sector, and relationship between private companies and governments, for them it is not easy to find a solution.” 

About restrictions the Americans can impose on activities of foreign companies in Iran, Ulyanov said, “The government is not able to compel the private business to go to Iran, especially if private companies do not have the sense of safety, I would say. We raised this issue with the participants in the Vienna talks, first of all, the Iranian delegation, which is very active in this regard. I believe there is some progress, insufficient, so far, but some progress.”

According to the Russian diplomat, Joe Biden’s statement in October made U.S. committed to the JCPOA, praising the move but of course, there is a catch. “I believe the statement President Biden made in October last year was helpful in this regard. President Biden committed the United States with full compliance with the JCPOA as long as Iran does the same. I believe it’s a very good, positive formula. The problem is that it will remain valid as long as Mr. Biden stays in the White House. So, we are trying to elaborate additional guarantees or additional provisions which could make Iran a more attractive partner for private business from different countries. We are doing our best, and this work is not yet completed.”

Regarding various scenarios at the negotiating table, Ulyanov said Russia agrees with Iran regarding the full revival of JCPOA.

“We want the JCPOA to be restored, fully, 100%. We want sanctions to be lifted,” he reiterated.

Stating that a new deal is entirely out of question, the Russian negotiator said, “Regarding (a) hypothetical completely new deal, I believe it is absolutely unrealistic. It would take years and years to elaborate a new deal.” 

Iran has time and again rejected the possibility of a new deal or an interim agreement.

The Russian envoy added that Russia fully supports Iran that the extraterritorial sanctions are illegal. 

“In our national capacity, Russian national capacity, I can tell you that we are fully on the side of Iran. We don’t recognize extraterritorial sanctions. We believe that they are absolutely illegitimate and extremely counter-productive. But the reality is that we need to find a solution acceptable for everybody,” he asserted.

He added that a main body of anti-Iran sanctions in many areas including oil and trade will be lifted.

“I can tell you for sure that as a result of the Vienna talks, the main body of anti-Iranian sanctions will be lifted, including in the most important areas, such as oil, trade, and many many other areas,” he concluded. 

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