TEHRAN: A top Iranian official said on Monday that his country is seeking creative ways to restore its nuclear deal with world powers after Russia’s foreign minister linked sanctions on Moscow over its war on Ukraine to the ongoing negotiations.

The tweet by Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s powerful Supreme National Security Council, offers the first high-level acknowledgment of the demands of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

“Vienna participants act & react based on interests and it’s understandable,” Shamkhani wrote. “Our interactions ... are also solely driven by our people’s interests. Thus, were assessing new elements that bear on the negotiations and will accordingly seek creative ways to expedite a solution.”

Shamkhani later tweeted criticism of the United States; earlier, he avoided directly mentioning Russia.

Moscow’s demand for guarantees threatens months of delicate diplomacy between Tehran, Vienna

In recent days, negotiators on all sides in Vienna had signaled that a potential deal was close as the head of the UN nuclear watchdog agreed to a timetable with Iran for it to answer the watchdog’s long-standing questions about Tehran’s programme.

But Lavrov on Saturday said he wanted guarantees at least at the level of the secretary of state that the US sanctions would not affect Moscow’s relationship with Tehran. That threw into question the months of negotiations held so far on restoring the 2015 deal, which saw Iran agree to drastically limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Lavrov’s demand irrelevant as the nuclear deal and sanctions on Moscow over the Ukraine war were totally different.

“Getting out of the deal was one of the worst mistakes that’s been made in recent years. It let the entire Iranian nuclear programme that we put in a box out of the box,” Blinken told CBS’s “Face the Nation” talk show. “And so if there’s a way of getting back to re-implementing that deal effectively, it’s in our interest to do it and were working on that as we speak. It’s also in Russia’s interest.”

Speaking on Monday in Tehran, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that peaceful nuclear cooperation between China, Iran and Russia shouldn’t be limited by sanctions.

“So far Russia had shown a constructive approach for reaching a collective agreement in Vienna and we interpret what they say in this framework,” he said. “We will wait for them to give us more details in Vienna.” He added that Iran and the US continued to negotiate on a possible prisoner swap, like one that accompanied the earlier nuclear deal. “The remaining differences are less than fingers of a hand if no one adds a new issue,” Khatibzadeh said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian also weighed in, vowing that Tehran will not allow any foreign factor to affect the national interests of the country in the Vienna talks.

Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2022

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