US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has dismissed Russian demands of guarantees that Ukraine sanctions would not hamper its relations with Iran.
Moscow’s demand was two pronged. First, it alluded to its ability to play its role in an imminent nuclear deal with Iran, and second to have economic and military ties with Tehran without being hampered by recent sanctions imposed for its invasion of Ukraine.
A day after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov demanded written guarantees from Washington to that effect, Blinken said Sunday that the Ukraine sanctions have nothing to do with a potential nuclear deal with Iran.
They "just are not in any way linked together, so I think that's irrelevant," he said, adding that it is in the interests of both Russia and the US that Iran is not able to "have a nuclear weapon or the capacity to produce a weapon on very, very short order."
Lavrov said Saturday that international sanctions against Russia had created "problems from the point of view of Russia's interests" regarding the restoration of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and that sanctions on Russia could complicate Moscow's involvement in Tehran's civilian nuclear program as well as arms sales to Iran.
A European diplomat who spoke to Iran International in Vienna on condition of anonymity said Saturday that Russia’s demand of US guarantees over Ukraine sanctions not impeding its dealings with Iran go farther than Tehran’s nuclear issue.
Iran's foreign ministry, as well as other officials and government-run media have not shown any reaction to Lavrov's remarks yet but the Iranian delegation's media advisor, Mohammad Marandi, told Al Jazeera Sunday that Iran is "waiting for verification from Russians" about their demands from the US because "it's not quite clear exactly what the Russians mean".
The demand is relevant if it is linked to the actual implementation of the JCPOA, especially with regards to the Iranian nuclear program itself, Marandi said. "Because Russians play a role in resolving issues, they will be dealing with enriched uranium and other elements of the nuclear program."
Abolfazl Amuei, a member of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said Sunday that Iran had not asked the Russian side to demand for guarantees from the US. “This is in fact something that Russia and the US must resolve between themselves because it is related with the relations between them in regards to Ukraine."
"Iran has made every effort to distance the Vienna talks from events in Eurasia, Eastern Europe and Ukraine developments. Therefore, Americans must be able to satisfy all parties' wishes on their own," Amuei said.
Some media in Tehran and many Iranian social media users interpreted Lavrov's remarks Saturday as "blackmail" and "taking the JCPOA hostage" to secure Russia's own interests.
Speaking to conservative Entekhab website Sunday, a former Iranian diplomat to the United Nations, Kourosh Ahmadi, said Russia may be aiming at delaying the restoration of the JCPOA and putting pressure on the West.
Restoration of the JCPOA at this time is not in Russia's interest because oil markets' need for Russian oil will decrease if sanctions on Iran are lifted and Iranian oil becomes available in international markets, Ahmadi said. "Oil prices will also drop by 10 to 15 percent. Therefore, it is in Russia's interest to delay the return of Iran's oil to markets as long as possible," he added.