Russia hopes for restoration of JCPOA in ‘initial state’

May 1, 2021 - 18:29

TEHRAN – Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed hope that the 2015 Iran nuclear deal will be restored to its original format.

Speaking at a meeting with permanent members of the UN Security Council via videoconference on Friday, the Russian president discussed developments in the Caspian region, which he called “a very important region.” Within this framework, he discussed Iran’s nuclear program as a Caspian Sea country.

“Naturally, we understand that one of our neighbors in the Caspian “five” is Iran. There is much going on around its nuclear program. I hope that everything related to the JCPOA will be restored to its initial state and we will be able to build relations with all participants of the Caspian club and implement all our plans, including those in the Caspian region,” Putin said, referring to the Iran nuclear deal by its acronym.

The Russian president said developments in the Caspian Sea are crucially important for Russia. “I mean both in terms of economic activity and interaction with our closest partners and allies. And, of course, we are speaking also about providing security and the interests of Russia in the Caspian region in general,” he pointed out, according to a Kremlin readout. 

The meeting was attended by Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko, Deputy Chairman of the Security Council Dmitry Medvedev, Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Anton Vaino, Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Federal Security Service Director Alexander Bortnikov, Foreign Intelligence Service Director Sergei Naryshkin and Special Presidential Representative for Environmental Protection, Ecology and Transport Sergei Ivanov.

Putin’s comments came in the midst of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P4+1 group of countries of which Russia is a member. Diplomats from Iran and the P4+1 group of countries held on Thursday intensive talks aimed at reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Top Iranian nuclear negotiator Seyed Abbas Araghchi said the talks began in the early hours of the morning and lasted until late at night. 

“Talks between Iran and the P4+1 group were intensively followed in Vienna yesterday, and meetings were held at various levels and formats from the early morning hours until late last night,” Araghchi, who serves as Iran’s deputy foreign minister, said in a statement on Friday noon. 

“A quadripartite meeting was also held yesterday between Seyed Abbas Araghchi, head of the Iranian negotiating team, and heads of delegations from three European countries,” the top Iranian negotiator added. 

Araghchi also met with the Deputy Secretary General and Political Director of the European External Action Service, Enrique Mora, and Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg.

According to Araghchi, talks will continue on Friday on texts at various expert-level working groups. 

So far, the Vienna talks have resulted in the establishment of three expert-level working groups, one to identify the sanctions that the U.S. should remove in order to return to the JCPOA, and another to specify the nuclear activities that Iran should reverse. The third group was set up recently and is called “Expert Group on Practical Arrangements,” which is formed with the aim of holding talks on the practical arrangements required for the removal of sanctions and then the US return to the JCPOA. The Third group held its first meeting on Wednesday.

Russia is an active partner to the Vienna talks. Russia’s Permanent Representative to the International Organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov said on Saturday that the JCPOA Joint Commission will be meeting on the same day.

“Today the JCPOA participants will take stock of intermediate results of the Vienna talks on full restoration of the nuclear deal,” he said on Twitter. 

Before the JCPOA Joint Commission’s Saturday meeting, Ulyanov and Araghchi held a relatively long meeting in Vienna on Saturday morning. 

“During this meeting, the two delegations re-coordinated their positions and stressed the need to maintain the closeness of the positions of the two countries,” Araghchi said in a statement. “The Russian side also reiterated its support for the nuclear deal and the need for the United States to lift sanctions on Iran.”

Araghchi and Ulyanov held several bilateral meetings over the course of the Vienna talks. these meetings were mostly held to coordinate positions and exchange views on the negotiation process, which is expected to reach its climax in the coming weeks. 

Ulyanov told Sputnik News on Thursday that Washington does not consider sanctions imposed under labels such as terrorism, missile development and human rights violations as restrictions that could be removed, according to Press TV.

“No, the Americans do not consider exactly these sanctions as subject to lifting. They believe these sanctions have nothing to do with the JCPOA,” he said.

The remarks came a day after the Associated Press reported that the Biden administration is considering the removal of some of the most stringent sanctions imposed on Iran so that Tehran would go back on its remedial measures it has taken under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in response to the West's breach of the deal.

Last week on Tuesday Araghchi told Press TV that all the sanctions that the Trump and Barack Obama administrations imposed on Iran following the implementation of the JCPOA must be terminated before the United States can return to the agreement.

“The United States must first lift all sanctions, and Iran will return to its obligations only after verifying the lifting of the US sanctions,” Araghchi added.

Nuclear talks over how to revive the JCPOA has been ongoing in Vienna since April but Iran and the U.S. are yet to reach a final agreement on reviving the tattered nuclear deal. 

Ned Price, spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, has said that a long road remains ahead but a deal seems within reach. He said progress is being made in the Vienna talks but further discussion is needed before an agreement can be announced. 

“We’ve been able to engage indirectly with the Iranian delegation in largely thoughtful, businesslike, constructive dialogue. But there is still a great distance to travel, and what we have said before about having more road ahead of us than road behind us remains accurate,” Price said in a recent press briefing.

He added, “It is fair to say that some progress has been made. We have a better understanding of what we might need to do, were Iran to go back into compliance, and it is our assessment that the Iranians have a better sense of what they would need to do to resume their compliance with the JCPOA.”