Russia underlines need to take ‘initial’ steps to revive JCPOA

April 2, 2021 - 21:9

TEHRAN – Russia has highlighted the need to take initial steps to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal after news media reported that Iran suggested that all parties to the nuclear deal directly move to the full implementation of the deal.

Russia’s representative to the International Organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov said in a tweet on Thursday night that directly moving to the final stage in implementing the nuclear deal -officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – is an option, but reaching the point of completely implementing the JCPOA may require initial steps at first.

The Russian diplomat was commenting on a scoop by Amwaj Media saying that Iran has suggested that all sides “should probably move directly to the final stage,” and hinted at the possibility of rapid progress if the U.S. moves first.

“This is an option. But probably before moving to the final stage, it could be prudent to agree on initial and significant steps in order to create much more favorable climate to go fast to the destination point which is full implementation of #JCPOA by all sides,” Ulyanov tweeted.

The tweet came one day before a virtual meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission was held.

The European Union said in a statement on Thursday that the meeting will take place on Friday to discuss a possible U.S. return to the Iran nuclear deal.

“The Joint Commission will be chaired on behalf of EU High Representative Josep Borrell by the Deputy Secretary-General and Political Director of the European External Action Service Enrique Mora. It will be attended by representatives of China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Iran,” the statement said.

“Participants will discuss the prospect of a possible return of the United States to the JCPOA and how to ensure the full and effective implementation of the agreement by all sides.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry also issued a statement on Friday announcing the start of the meeting. 

The meeting was held amid renewed efforts to revive the nuclear deal, which is now on life support due to Washington’s reluctance to lift sanctions. Iran has called on the White House to make the first move towards reviving the deal by removing all the sanctions that were imposed on Iran during the Trump administration. But the Biden administration refused to lift sanctions, calling on Iran instead to make the first move. The U.S. said the ball is in Iran’s court, a claim that Iran sees as procrastination. 

Although the U.S. was not invited to participate in the Friday meeting, it welcomed the meeting as a “positive step.”  

“We obviously welcome this is a positive step,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington on Thursday. “We have been clear for weeks now that we are ready to pursue a return to compliance with our JCPOA commitments consistent with Iran also doing the same.”

“We have also been open about the fact that we have been talking with our partners in the P5+1 context and elsewhere about the best way to achieve this, including through a series of initial mutual steps,” Price added.

“We've been looking at options for doing so, including with indirect conversations through our European partners.”

Ulyanov also commented on the State Department’s stance, describing it as yet another sign that the U.S. has changed its approach to the JCPOA. 

“The U.S. Department of State welcomed the virtual meeting of the Joint Commission of JCPOA with participation of Iran and other Parties to the nuclear deal. Another confirmation of significant changes in the U.S. position which need now to be translated into practical actions,” the Russian diplomat tweeted on Thursday. 

Earlier on the day, Ulyanov had said that the Friday meeting provides an “opportunity” to discuss the U.S. return to the JCPOA. 

“A virtual meeting of the Joint Commission of JCPOA will be held on April 2. The participants will discuss how to ensure full restoration of JCPOA implementation by all sides. It will also provide an opportunity to exchange views on possible return of U.S. to the nuclear deal,” Ulyanov said. 

“U.S. failing to seize the golden chance for securing a win-win bargain” 

The process of reviving the nuclear deal has suffered setbacks after the Biden administration failed to change tack on Iran. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in remarks delivered on Thursday that the U.S. is failing to seize the golden chance for securing a win-win bargain on the JCPOA. He criticized the Biden administration’s foot-dragging on a return to compliance with the nuclear deal.

“As Leader [of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei] announced, if they (the U.S.) return to the JCPOA, Iran will also return to its commitments,” the Iranian president said, according to Press TV. “This would mean a win-win bargain for the region and the entire world, which would benefit them. The Americans were not able to understand that and failed to seize this golden opportunity. They have been dragging their feet, and we have been getting messages and news, which show this new [US] administration is far from the reality about Iran.”

He pointed out that the U.S. officials’ “lack of knowledge” about Iran is ridiculous, adding that if they could get to know the great nation of Iran, its great civilization, and its golden homeland, they would treat the nation with humility.

 “Biggest honor of the Iranian nation in moral, political and historical terms”

Rouhani reminded all those who call the JCOPA one of the most significant international agreements that it is the Iranian nation that has been shouldering the burden of the deal since Washington’s withdrawal about three years ago.

Pointing to the economic war waged by enemies on the Islamic Republic, the president said, “We did not begin this war. Even after this war was imposed on us, we continued to fulfill all our commitments [based on the JCPOA] for a full year,” describing the patience as “the biggest honor of the Iranian nation in moral, political and historical terms.”

He added, “Those who are discussing who should return to their obligations first, Iran or the United States, should know that it was Iran that adhered to all its obligations one year after the withdrawal of the United States and today, after 3 years, we announce that once the Americans return to fulfilling their obligations, Iran will immediately fulfill all its obligations as well.”

“Full restoration” 

In addition to Iran, other signatories to the JCPOA including Russia fully support reviving the JCPOA. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow is in favor of restoring the 2015 deal in its initial form that was endorsed by a UN Security Council resolution.

Speaking at the Middle East Conference of the Valdai Discussion Club in Moscow on Wednesday, the top Russian diplomat called for “full restoration” of the JCPOA, stressing that the deal should be restored in its initial form as it was approved by the UN.

“We have proposed an informal road map, envisioning Iran's and the United States' simultaneous gradual return to the implementation of their obligations. French colleagues help us formulate the steps, especially the first step, which should launch the process of JCPOA full restoration,” he said.

Lavrov is expected to discuss, among other issues, the JCPOA during a visit to Iran scheduled for April 13, according to a statement issued by the Iranian Foreign Ministry on Thursday. 

“The visit will be made as part of political consultations between the foreign ministers of Iran and Russia and upon Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif's invitation. Consultations on various aspects of bilateral relations, regional issues especially the latest developments in the Caucasus, Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan, Iran-Russia cooperation at international and regional bodies as well as important issues like the JCPOA, countering the United States' unilateral moves and unlawful sanctions will be among the most pressing topics of negotiations between Zarif and Lavrov,” the statement said. 

Ulyanov highlighted the close diplomatic contacts between Iran and Russia.

“Russia and Iran maintain very intensive dialogue at all levels, including the Ministerial level. The Ministers of Foreign Affairs meet on a regular basis, many times per year. This dialogue goes far beyond the most topical issue of JCPOA. Very valuable practice,” the Russian diplomat tweeted.