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Russia Joins Iran In Call For U.S. To Lift Sanctions To Rejoin Nuclear Pact

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (left) meets with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in Moscow on January 26.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (left) meets with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in Moscow on January 26.

Moscow has joined Tehran in calling on U.S. President Joe Biden to lift crippling economic sanctions on Iran if he wants to save a multination deal aimed at keeping the Middle Eastern country's nuclear program in check.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif on January 26 that the two nations "share the same position” on urging the United States to lift sanctions as a condition for Iran's return to compliance.

"This in turn will provide the preconditions for the implementation of all requirements of the nuclear deal by the Islamic Republic of Iran," Lavrov said at a joint press conference in Moscow with Zarif.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear pact with world powers in 2018 and reimposed crushing sanctions in violation of the deal, prompting Tehran to gradually breach some of the accord's parameters.

Biden, who took office on January 20, has said the United States intends to rejoin the pact if Tehran resumes strict compliance.

During his confirmation hearing last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that, while the United States wants to reenter the deal, it would depend on Iran "coming back into compliance with their obligations."

Blinken also said the 2015 agreement would be "a platform" for a "longer and stronger agreement" that would include other issues such as Iran's missile program and malign activities.

Known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the deal was agreed between Iran, the United States, China, Russian, Britain, France, and Germany in 2015.

Iran has repeatedly rejected any additional conditions to the JCPOA.

"Why on earth should Iran -- a country that stood firm and defeated 4 years of a brutal U.S. economic terrorism imposed in violation of the JCPOA & UNSC Resolution-- show goodwill gesture first? It was the U.S. that broke the deal -- for no reason. It must remedy its wrong; then Iran will respond," Zarif wrote on Twitter, reiterating a statement he's made several times recently.

Following the Moscow talks, the French presidency rejected the stance, saying Iran must first comply with the accord in order to see the U.S. return.

"If they are serious about negotiations and if they want to obtain a reengagement of all the stakeholders in the JCPOA, they firstly need to refrain from further provocations and secondly respect what they no longer respect, that's to say their obligations," a presidency official was quoted as saying by several media outlets on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, Iran is signaling it will continue to increases the stakes.

Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei on January 26 threatened to block short-notice inspections of its nuclear facilities by the United Nations atomic agency (IAEA) starting the week of February 19.

The inspections, known as the Additional Protocol, are considered a key part of the treaty, which provides an ability to monitor and verify that nuclear activities are for civilian purposes.

"Our law is very clear regarding this issue," he told a televised news conference.

"But it does not mean Iran will stop other inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency," he added.

Following the assassination of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran’s parliament in December passed a law ordering an immediate ramping up of the country's uranium-enrichment program to 20 percent and an end to UN inspections if sanctions are not removed by February.

In Moscow, Zarif reiterated that Iran can quickly reverse its violations if U.S. sanctions are removed.

"If favorable actions are taken before that time...Iran will not interfere with the admission of (IAEA) inspectors under the additional protocol," he said.

With reporting by AFP, Interfax, Reuters and TASS
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