The Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohamad Javad Zarif, meets with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, on May 13, 2018 in Beijing
In the second stage of his diplomatic marathon to save the nuclear agreement after the withdrawal of the United States, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohamad Javad Zarif, arrived on Monday in Moscow, in a context of unusual rapprochement between Russia and Europe.
Iranian public television Irib broadcast images of Zarif in Moscow, claiming he arrived in Russia at 0400 hours (0100 GMT) on Monday and planned to meet with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.
A spokesman for the Russian chancellery confirmed that the two men would meet on Monday morning.
Zarif began his diplomatic tour on Sunday in Beijing and after the Russian capital will travel to Brussels, where he will meet with his French, German and British counterparts. Thus, he will have met with the representatives of the five powers that, in addition to the United States, signed the 2015 text with Iran.
After his meeting with his Chinese counterpart, the Iranian minister seemed cautiously optimistic about the possibilities of safeguarding the historic agreement, which envisaged a lifting of international sanctions against Iran in exchange for the Islamic Republic not being equipped with a nuclear weapon.
In Moscow, he will have to secure the support of his ally, after Vladimir Putin’s talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last Friday, after the withdrawal of the United States had left Russia in the center of the board.
– Preserve the agreement –
For his part, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Riabkov and his Iranian counterpart Abbas Arghachi stressed in Tehran on Thursday their “commitment to safeguarding the agreement.”
A day earlier, Putin had declared that he was “deeply concerned” about Donald Trump’s decision.
The preservation of the agreement has become a common goal of Moscow and the Europeans, something rare given the tensions of recent years, fueled by the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, in addition to the case of the poisoning of ex-spy Sergey Skripal in England .
“The cooperation [between the Europeans] and Russia, which yesterday seemed impossible with the Skripal case, the respective expulsions of diplomats and the cooling of contacts, is currently experiencing a new impulse,” said Andréi Baklitski, analyst at the center. Russian research PIR.
Merkel plans to travel to Sochi, in southern Russia, on May 18. There he will meet with Vladimir Putin, while the French president, Emmanuel Macron, will go to St. Petersburg at the end of May.
Putin will also meet with Yukiya Amano, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Sochi, according to his adviser Yuri Ushakov.
– ‘Clear future framework’ –
Russia has consolidated itself in recent years as an important player in the Middle East, a role reinforced by its military intervention in Syria since 2015 in support of Bashar al-Assad. The country maintains good relations with countries with divergent or sometimes rival interests, from Iran to Turkey, passing through Israel.
Relations between Russia and Iran -another antagonists- have improved since the end of the Cold War. When Tehran was vetoed by other nations, Moscow agreed to resume, in the mid-1990s, the construction contract for the Buchehr nuclear power plant (southern Iran), abandoned by Germany.
Some experts believe that Russia could benefit economically from the departure of the United States from the agreement, as it is less exposed than Europe to the consequences of a re-establishment of sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
The Iranians hope “to be able to establish a clear future framework for the agreement,” according to Zarif, who nevertheless warned that Iran was “prepared for all options” if its interests were not guaranteed.
On Friday, he said Tehran was preparing to resume “industrial enrichment” of uranium “without any restriction,” unless Europe provides solid evidence that it will maintain its trade relations with Iran.
The agreement was concluded in July 2015 after several years of negotiations between Iran and Germany, China, the United States, Russia, France and the United Kingdom. Under the agreement, Tehran agreed to freeze its nuclear program until 2025.
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