Russia commits to Iran deal following U.S. pullout

Russia and Iran, two trading partners that are also the target of U.S. sanctions, are committed to a nuclear deal that Washington said was bad policy.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  May 14, 2018 at 8:04 AM
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May 14 (UPI) -- After exploring a free-trade agreement with Iran last month, Russia's president said Monday that Moscow remained committed to a joint nuclear deal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin met Monday with Yukiya Amano, the general director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear watchdog for the United Nations. Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian envoy to the IAEA, said Putin expressed his commitment to an Iranian nuclear deal brokered with the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany.

"As far as Iran is concerned, the president reaffirmed Russia's readiness to continue fulfilling the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regardless of the United States' decision to withdraw from it," Ulyanov was quoted by Russian news agency Tass as saying.

The statement Monday came weeks after Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed an interim agreement with Iran that could open the trade doors with members of the Eurasian Economic Union over the next four years. EAEU member states are Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia.

Trade doors may be closing for Iran because U.S. President Donald Trump left the JCPOA last week. During the weekend, Trump's advisors said there may be possible ripple effects of sanctions for some of Iran's trading partners, including some of Washington's strongest allies in Europe who may be keen on Iran's energy sector.

The U.S. departure from the agreement could leave the global oil market short by about 1 million barrels per day because of Iranian limitations.

Both Russia and Iran are members of an effort led by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to offset an oil market glut with production cuts. The U.S. president complained last month that the OPEC effort had made crude oil prices artificially high.

Both countries were already facing economic isolation because of Western-backed sanctions. A delegation from Russia arrived in the Iranian province of Bushehr in late April to move the discussion on trade forward.

On Sunday, China, one of the signatories to the JCPOA, said it too would stay in the nuclear agreement. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said after meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, the deal was hard-earning and worth keeping.

"China will take an objective, fair and responsible attitude, keep communication and cooperation with all parties concerned, and continue to work to maintain the deal," he was quoted by China's official Xinhua News Agency as saying.

Wang said Iran could be an important partner in its Belt and Road initiative, a multibillion-dollar initiative aimed at integrating the Chinese economy more deeply in Eurasia. Some of the planned initiatives extend into the oil and gas sector.

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