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US return to JCPOA requires unconditional renewal of all obligations: Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has commended “significant progress” made in the Vienna talks aimed at reviving the Iranian nuclear deal, urging the United States to completely and unconditionally renew all its obligations to return to the agreement.

“The progress is significant, and many things were agreed upon, but not everything,” Lavrov said at a press conference after negotiations with Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani in Moscow on Friday.

The US, under former President Donald Trump, left the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in 2018 and initiated a “maximum pressure” campaign of tough economic sanctions against Iran, prompting Tehran to take remedial measures by gradually reducing its nuclear commitments under the deal.

Since April, representatives from Iran and the remaining signatories to the JCPOA — France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China — have been holding face-to-face talks in the Austrian capital aimed at bringing the US back to compliance and putting the deal back on track.

Trump’s withdrawal was criticized by candidate Joe Biden, who defeated him in the November presidential election. Biden had promised to rejoin the JCPOA but the US is yet to take a concrete, verifiable step to that goal.

The talks have, however, dragged on, signaling that the US is still refusing to meet Tehran’s key conditions for it to return to the JCPOA.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Lavrov pointed to the main obstacles hindering the JCPOA revitalization and said, “If the United States unilaterally withdrew from the agreement and thereby violated the UN Security Council Resolution [2231] in a gross manner, then, probably, the US return to the JCPOA presupposes a complete and unconditional renewal of all obligations.”

He slammed efforts by the West to retroactively change the multilateral nuclear deal, saying, “Our Western partners are trying in every possible way to use this situation in order to retroactively change the JCPOA and impose new obligations on Iran.”

The Russian foreign minister emphasized that full restoration of what was signed and approved unanimously by the Security Council would be a “very honest approach.”

Speaking to reporters after a United Nations Security Council meeting on Wednesday, Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations Majid Takht-Ravanchi said a guarantee by the United States that it will never unilaterally withdraw from the JCPOA again is crucial to a successful conclusion of the ongoing talks in Vienna.

He reiterated that the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal was illegal and against international regulations, adding, “The US left the JCPOA illegally, irrationally and without any reason.”

Russia expects JCPOA to be back in effect before July 14

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a briefing on Thursday that Moscow expects that the Vienna talks will be successfully completed by July 14 — the sixth anniversary of the JCPOA conclusion.

She praised sizable progress made on the nuclear deal revival by the negotiating sides during the Vienna talks, saying, “Over these three months, the delegations have managed to achieve substantial progress in coordinating the parameters and modalities of the process to restore the JCPOA.”

Zakharova added, “They also managed to determine the response and the sequence of the moves that the US and Iran are to make, as well as to analyze how the corresponding commitments will be formalized and their checks ensured.”

She also stressed the importance of reviewing Washington’s restrictions against Tehran and continuing the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) inspection of Iran’s nuclear activities.

The Russian spokesperson said it is a priority to “restore as soon as possible the verifying activity of the IAEA in Iran to the degree envisaged by the Joint [Comprehensive] Plan of Action.”

She warned that such agreements have no sensible alternative “and without them security measures are getting more vulnerable.”

The diplomat further denounced the United States for failing to take any practical measure to solve the dispute on Iran’s nuclear case.

No practical moves are seen from the US for now of abandoning its policy of pressuring Iran, Zakharova said.

The sixth round of the Vienna talks between Iran and the P4+1 group of countries concluded on June 20 as the negotiators returned to their capitals for further consultations.

This is the longest break the diplomats have taken since the beginning of the negotiations.

Throughout the Vienna talks, Iran has insisted that the United States, as the first party that abandoned its contractual undertakings, should be the first party to return to its commitments by removing its sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Tehran has also sought assurances that the next US administration will not violate the deal again.

In a tweet on Thursday, Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s permanent representative to the international organizations in Vienna, said the participating states in the Vienna talks still need more time for what is supposed to be the final round of negotiations.

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