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.