The foreign ministers of Iran and six world powers entered a highly important phase on Monday in the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. Although only one day is left before a deadline to achieve results, there are still some substantial differences in the air.
The talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, included compromises of the two sides as to how many centrifuges to enrich uranium Iran could operate as well as Iran’s nuclear enrichment plan for medical research. And the mere thought of Iran being nuclear-equipped fears Israel.
So what does Russia has to do with it? Well, for starters, some are concerned (understandably) that Russia could disrupt the talks in order to get a leverage. While such move would not only further worsen US-Russia relationship, it would also harm Russia’s relations with Iran, which the Kremlin has supported in the Israel-Iran crisis.
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And while a successful agreement seems more and more probable, and while the Kremlin believes that there were “positive signals” at the talks in Lausanne, the chances Russia will try to disrupt such talks actually increase.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov expressed his optimism after the talks between world powers and Iran. “An extremely intensive and very deep session of the six powers and Iran took place this morning,” Ryabkov was quoted by TASS news agency. “The main thing that causes optimism is determination of all ministers to achieve results… within the current session.”
Another thing which concerns political experts is the fact that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov chose to leave the talks on Monday, just a day after arriving in Lausanne, for some meeting in Moscow. But according to his spokeswoman Maria Zarakhova, Lavrov plans to return to Switzerland on Tuesday if there will be chances for a deal.
If Russia indeed opts out to disrupt the talks, it risks an immediate and significant escalation in Moscow’s ongoing confrontation with the West. Such actions would result in the United States providing lethal arms to Kyiv (or that still won’t be enough?).
However, if you think about it, at the time when Russia needs support from other countries the most, the Kremlin could suppress its temptations and not wreck the negotiation process in Lausanne as Iran’s leadership actually wants to reach an agreement at the talks.
President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have worked really hard to make this agreement possible, while Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has supported them in the effort. But what Iran wants from Russia is to help ‘make a point’ with its threats, and definitely not to disrupt the talks altogether. After all, losing Iran as a partner would not be a desirable outcome for Russia.
What is Iran’s stance on the sanctions
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said there had been “some progress and some setbacks in the last hours.”
“I can’t rule out that there will be further crises in these negotiations,” he told reporters in Lausanne.
Russia, China, the United States, UK, France and Germany want more than a 10-year suspension of Iran’s most sensitive nuclear work. Tehran, however, denies it is attempting to develop a nuclear weapons capability, and demands an immediate lifting of international sanctions that are worsening its economy.
The West also considers allowing Iran to conduct limited and thoroughly monitored enrichment works for medical research at an underground facility.
Originally, Iran had insisted on keeping nearly 10,000 centrifuges it currently uses, but stated in November that the US had indicated it could accept about 6,000. Meanwhile, Iranian officials say they have been pushing for 6,500-7,000.
European diplomats say that the next few days will show whether Iran’s fundamental stance on the West sanctions is a negotiating tactic, or whether Ali Khamenei, has left them no negotiating option. Khamenei said on his website on Monday morning: “Sanctions must be lifted in one go, not as a result of future Iranian actions.”
Russia and Iran signed nuclear construction deal
Moscow signed a partnership agreement with Tehran on November 11 last year. The agreement, guaranteed by the IAEA, paved the way for Russia to build eight nuclear power units in Iran.
The documents, which were signed by the chief of the Rosatom, Sergey Kirienko, and the chief of the Atomic Energy Agency of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi.
According to the documents, Russia plans to build eight nuclear power units with pressurized water reactors “turn-key ready” in Iran, four of which will be built at the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant.
Russia also vowed to provide nuclear fuel for the reactors during their entire life cycle.
“It is the turning point in the relations between our countries,” Salehi said. “These friendly actions, taken by Russia will be well-remembered.” Furthermore, he added that now Russia and Iran “have become even closer to each other.”
Although back then, both countries didn’t discuss possible shipment of enriched uranium to Iran.
“We didn’t discuss this question today,” Sergey Kirienko told reporters after the signing of the agreement.
The project is guaranteed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), just like the first unit of the Bushehr. The Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant’s construction started in 1974 by a German company, and was completed by Russia in 2013.