Moscow and Tehran called for the rescue of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal Tuesday, as the two countries’ foreign ministers held their first talks since US President Joe Biden took office.
His election has raised hopes the landmark 2015 deal might be salvaged after the accord was largely left in tatters when the previous White House adminstration exited the agreement in 2018.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said ahead of the talks in Moscow that “one of the most pressing topics is the task of rescuing the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan (JCPOA)”.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif thanked Moscow for its efforts to repair the JCPOA after the US exit and for Russia’s “constructive and principled” position on the deal.
Zarif called for continued unity between Moscow and Tehran “in order to save the JCPOA from the risks and fears that arose after the United States left this plan.”
The JCPOA was agreed in 2015 between Iran, the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany.
It offered sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and guarantees it would not seek an atomic bomb. Iran maintains it has only pursued a civilian nuclear energy program.
Significant escalation: IAEA says “#Iran today began feeding uranium already enriched up to 4.1 percent U-235 into six centrifuge cascades at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant for further enrichment up to 20%."https://t.co/odYIFy0qf1
— Jason Brodsky (@JasonMBrodsky) January 4, 2021
The agreement largely fell apart after former US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew and ordered officials to reimpose tough penalties against Tehran as part of his administration’s “maximum pressure” policy.
The IAEA confirmed that “Iran today began feeding uranium already enriched up to 4.1 percent U-235 into six centrifuge cascades at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant for further enrichment up to 20 percent”.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted angrily and charged it proved Iran is seeking to build an atomic bomb — a claim the Islamic republic has always denied.
“Iran’s decision to continue violating its commitments, to raise the enrichment level and advance the industrial ability to enrich uranium underground, cannot be explained in any way except as the continued realisation of its intention to develop a military nuclear programme,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
“Israel will not allow Iran to manufacture nuclear weapons.”
The European Union said Iran’s enrichment programme would be a “considerable departure” from the deal.
Russia’s envoy to the IAEA said that Moscow is “not enthusiastic” about Tehran’s move but emphasised that “there is nothing to overdramatise”.
“The nuclear programme remains fully transparent and verifiable,” Mikhail Ulyanov wrote on Twitter. “We should focus on means to restore comprehensive implementation of the nuclear deal.”
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk