Washington would not sanction Russia in nuclear projects that are part of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, A US official was quoted by Reuters As saying on Tuesday.

The official also said that the United States continues to engage with Russia on a return to the full implementation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal

Iranian and Russia foreign ministers presented a united front at a Moscow news conference Tuesday over long-running talks to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Iran’s Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that the recent pause in the 11-month Vienna talks could “pave the way for the resolution of issues and the return of all parties to their nuclear deal commitments.” Amir-Abdollahian said he had invited Lavrov to visit Tehran soon.

An apparent twist was added to the talks March 5 when Lavrov said Moscow needed assurances that any sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine invasion would not impact Russia’s relations with Iran and the implementation of a revived 2015 deal, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). There has been wide speculation as to what Lavrov meant and exactly what Moscow was seeking.

But the remarks of a US official on Tuesday show that Washington only exempted Russia in nuclear projects outlined in the JCPOA.

Russia is expected to play a central part in reimplementing the JCPOA, especially in shipping out enriched uranium currently held by Tehran above JCPOA limits. Moscow may have suspected that US third-party sanctions might target any Iranian links with Russia.

Lavrov said the future of Iranian-Russian relations was bright, especially as the Vienna talks were in the “home straight.”

‘Cannot be ignored’

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had a different emphasis Tuesday, suggesting that Moscow and Washington may not yet have resolved Lavrov’s query over possible sanctions. Peskov told reporters that the issue remained "a topic for the continuation of talks - it is really something that is very important for us."

Peskov said sanctions against Russia "directly affect the interests of our country in the context of that deal,” and that international sanctions over Ukraine were “a new aspect that cannot be ignored, that must be taken into account."

Oil prices fell to their lowest level in three weeks Tuesday, with some analysts attributing this in part to Lavrov’s stress on Russia’s continuing commitment to the JCPOA, which when back in place could see 1 million barrels a day of Iranian oil return to the global markets. Also depressing the price was expectation of reduced demand due to the Covid-19 upsurge in China.

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