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Blinken urges Russia to pressure Iran on nuclear deal

January 21, 2022

Nuclear talks with Iran are at "a decisive moment," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. He has called on Russia to use its influence on Tehran to push negotiations forward.

A camera points to Palais Coburg
Talks between Iran and other signatories of the 2015 nuclear deal are underway in Palais Coburg in ViennaImage: Michael Gruber/AP Photo/picture alliance

The Iran nuclear deal was an example of how Moscow and Washington could work together on security issues, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said after meeting his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, on Friday in Geneva.

Although Friday's discussions focused on the current crisis at the Russia-Ukraine border, the top US diplomatsaid there was "still a window" to salvage the now-defunct Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

"The talks with Iran about a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA have reached a decisive moment," Blinken said, but he warned that time was running out.

"If a deal is not reached in the next few weeks, Iran's ongoing nuclear advances will make it impossible to return to the JCPOA," he said.

The US state secretary also called on Russia, which is seen as an ally of Iran's, to use its influence in Tehran. Moscow should "impress upon Iran that sense of urgency," Blinken said.

Blinken's appeal comes after Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi visited Moscow earlier this week and against the backdrop of joint naval drills by Russia, China and Iran in the Indian Ocean.

Deal dismantled under Trump

The 2015 deal with Iran, which included the US, Russia, China, France, the UK and Germany, saw Tehran restrict its nuclear technology development. The restrictions would serve to assuage fears that Iran was trying to develop a nuclear bomb, although Tehran insists it was never interested in obtaining such a weapon. In return, foreign partners lifted economic sanctions on the Middle Eastern country.

Under President Donald Trump, however, the US left the deal and reimposed sanctions. Iran now insists that all US sanctions should be lifted, and also wants guarantees that they would not be reimposed and that the US will not take other restrictive measures. In turn, Western nations have criticized Iran for boosting uranium enrichment and testing ballistic missiles. The Vienna talks between the signatory nations, which first started in April, have shown little progress. Iran is refusing to negotiate with the US directly, meaning that other delegates must move between sessions with the two sides.

Earlier this week, US President Joe Biden said it was "not time to give up" and added that some progress was being made in Vienna.

dj/sms (AFP, Reuters, Interfax)