Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif, Tehran, April 13, 2021
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have held good talks with my friend, Foreign Minister of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif, in a traditionally trustful and friendly atmosphere, and our talks have culminated in a number of agreements.
Last month, we marked the 20th anniversary of signing the Treaty on the Basis for Mutual Relations and Principles of Cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Treaty laid the foundation for bilateral interstate communications under the principles of international law and mutual respect. Our relations fully meet the high standards set forth in this extremely important document.
We have noted the intensive nature of bilateral political dialogue, including at the highest level. We have agreed to continue implementing trade, economic, energy, agricultural, transport, industrial and nuclear-sector agreements, reached by our leaders. We have praised the close coordination between various agencies in key areas of the diverse Russian-Iranian partnership. We have positively assessed contacts between the secret services, military agencies, humanitarian institutions and overall human contacts.
We have separately discussed expanding cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Union and Iran. In December 2020, it was decided to launch talks on signing a permanent free trade agreement that would replace the 2018 temporary agreement which is now being successfully implemented. We have agreed that full-fledged trade liberalisation will help boost mutual trade still further.
We have analysed the efforts of our countries’ specialised agencies to combat the coronavirus infection. Over 500,000 two-component doses of the Sputnik V vaccine have been delivered to Iran. This vaccine has proved its efficiency, as confirmed by our Iranian friends. We are ready to continue assisting our neighbours in fighting the pandemic, including by launching production of this vaccine in Iran.
Russia and Iran continue to consolidate their bilateral legal framework. When Mr Minister visited Moscow last January, we signed an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in ensuring information security. Today we signed an intergovernmental agreement on the establishment and operation of Russia’s information and cultural centres in Iran and Iran’s information and cultural centres in Russia. People in our country will be glad to have this opportunity to learn more about the centuries-old authentic Iranian culture. It is good to know that Iranians are showing an increasing interest in the Russian language and the culture and traditions of our multi-ethnic and multi-faith country.
In elaboration of the steps to consolidate our legal framework, today we agreed to draft another intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in biological security, which is becoming more relevant when such threats are growing and there is an absence of control and verification mechanisms to ensure the transparency of all countries’ activities in this area. Our US colleagues are strongly against creating a multilateral universal mechanism of this kind under the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (BWC). We and our Iranian friends, just like many other partners of ours, believe it is necessary to follow bilateral channels in order to ensure transparency in this essential area.
Today we analysed our cooperation within international organisations and agreed to coordinate our actions further within the UN, the IAEA, the OPCW and other platforms.
We had an extensive discussion on the situation around the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action concerning Iran’s nuclear programme. As you know and as we have repeatedly stressed, it is only possible to continue with the JCPOA if all the involved parties implement it fully and consistently, in strict compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 2231. We expect that the JCPOA will be maintained and Washington will resume its comprehensive fulfilment of the resolution. This will open the door to Iran meeting all the requirements of the nuclear deal. It is our understanding that our partners in Tehran have expressed readiness to move in this direction immediately, provided that the United States takes the action required from it. We support the crucial talks that are underway in Vienna and condemn any attempts to sabotage them.
We compared our positions on the current military-political and humanitarian situation in Syria. With a view to an early crisis settlement in that country, we have also agreed to interact energetically further within the Astana format, jointly with our Turkish colleagues.
Russia consistently proceeds from the premise that the accumulated differences in the Persian Gulf area can only be overcome through a mutually respectful comprehensive dialogue with due account of the interests and concerns of all parties. The sooner the talks on this subject are launched, the quicker will there be a real chance for the situation to improve.
In this regard, we drew attention to our long-standing initiative to ensure collective security in the Persian Gulf. Unlike a number of other plans promoted by some states with confrontational goals or carrying a strong anti-Iranian charge, we stand for drafting a constructive and unifying agenda and creating mechanisms of joint response to challenges and threats with the involvement of all Gulf countries, Iran and all its neighbours. The Hormuz Peace Initiative proposed by Teheran is based on similar principles.
We also discussed the Nagorno-Karabakh situation in the context of Russian mediation efforts helping to maintain a stable ceasefire. We underscored the importance of overcoming the consequences of the conflict, of achieving in general a long-lasting political and diplomatic settlement on a just basis for the benefit of the Armenian and Azerbaijani peoples. We also considered the roles that the region’s countries could play in this process.
We touched on other relevant international topics, including the situation in Yemen and Afghanistan, where our positions are rather close.
We expressed satisfaction with the results of our talks on all bilateral and multilateral issues. I am grateful to our Iranian friends for the hospitality extended to our delegation. I avail myself of this opportunity to congratulate all Muslims on the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, and wish the peace and all good.
Question: Iran and the five international participants of the JCPOA are currently having talks in Vienna. At the same time, we can see and hear the West confronting Iran and the Russian Federation, imposing sanctions against us. How would you comment on these measures by the European Union?
Sergey Lavrov: Just a couple of hours ago, I was astounded to hear the news that the European Union had imposed sanctions against a number of officials from the Islamic Republic of Iran for alleged human rights violations. I have not yet seen the full text of that decision, but the very fact of more sanctions raises many questions. If there is no coordination whatsoever in the European Union, if its left hand does not know what its right hand is doing, this is nothing less than a disaster. But if the decision was made deliberately, in the midst of the ongoing talks in Vienna on ways to rescue the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, then this is not a disaster. It is the kind of mistake that, as you know, is worse than a crime.
In my opening remarks, I underscored that in connection with this event, we condemn any attempts to undermine the process that is unfolding with difficulty in Vienna between all the participants in the JCPOA. I hope that our European colleagues will realise that this kind of action is unacceptable and will take measures to prevent a derailment of the negotiations.
Question: The United States said it is not ready to lift all sanctions on Iran at once. How important is the lifting of oil sanctions and the unfreezing of Iranian foreign assets for the return to the full implementation of the JCPOA? Do you have any concerns that the removal of the oil sanctions could undermine the balance in the hydrocarbon market achieved due to the OPEC Plus deal?
Sergey Lavrov: With regard to sanctions and the US’ reluctance to lift all the unilateral sanctions from Iran, our stance is clear and consistent with our Iranian friends’ approach. All unilateral sanctions imposed by Washington in direct violation of the JCPOA must, of course, be lifted. This topic is being discussed in Vienna. Once the United States fulfils that condition (that is, returns to full compliance with its obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 2231), the Islamic Republic of Iran will return to the implementation of the voluntary steps that Tehran committed to in accordance with that resolution.
As for the possibility of the Vienna talks giving a boost to the oil market, with more Iranian oil supplied once the sanctions are lifted, and how this will affect the efforts under OPEC Plus, I have a general answer. Policy should rely on the economy and should help solve economic problems in a particular country, but exclusively by legal methods – as prescribed by international law, the norms and principles of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the freedom of trade rule. If a policy aims to achieve economic benefits through unilateral illegal sanctions, moreover, in direct violation of the UN Security Council resolution, and the norms and principles of the WTO, we absolutely condemn such a policy. Economic benefits cannot be obtained by illegal methods.
Question: Is it true that US sanctions may lead to a shortage of funding for the Bushehr project when it comes to settlements with Russian contractors, and that the construction may be stopped as early as this year? Was this subject discussed?
Sergey Lavrov: When we speak about the necessity for the United States to resume full implementation of the JCPOA, we do not mean only the direct lifting of the illegal sanctions against Iran, but also the restrictions imposed on foreign companies for their cooperation with Iran.
The extraterritorial application of US laws (the EU has entered the same downward path, and is replacing legitimate methods with unilateral moves) must be put to an end. This is one of the subjects being discussed in Vienna.
Question: The other day, German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer expressed regret that Moscow had not explained the goal of its military build-up on the border with Ukraine. Can you comment on that statement?
Sergey Lavrov: Regarding the German Defence Minister’s statement on Russia’s alleged obligation to explain its actions on its own territory and the objectives of its armed forces’ training deployment and exercises, as well as her request that we do not keep these facts secret, I would like to say the following: we would like the Russian Federation’s right to hold any event it wants on its own territory to be respected.
As for Germany, it opened its door to Alexey Navalny under certain conditions, and our German colleagues still refuse to provide information about his health to us and have accused the Russian leadership of poisoning him on Russian territory. Not a single fact that would substantiate this claim has been provided to us.If Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is so obsessed with obtaining information about events taking place in Russia, we would like her to reciprocate by ensuring that her government gives us the information which our German colleagues are keeping secret from us. She can play an important role in clearing up this dark and suspicious story. According to Berlin, toxic agents that are prohibited by the OPCW were found in Navalny’s samples at the Bundeswehr hospital. As we say in Russia, it’s only fitting that Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer bring clarity to the matters, which we raised with our German colleagues long ago and quite legitimately, but without any effect.
Question: As a JCPOA participant, what does Russia think about the US decision to resume the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 for restoring the plan?
Sergey Lavrov: The only way of restoring the JCPOA lies in the US fully returning to the implementation of all of its commitments that were approved by the UN Security Council. Washington flagrantly violated them at its own discretion. Moreover, the US adopted many laws that prohibit all other countries from implementing UN Security Council Resolution 2231. Only Washington’s full return to observance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, without any exceptions, provides a way out of the current situation. Otherwise, we will create a dangerous precedent of treating international law in a way that may backfire on us unexpectedly in some other areas of human endeavour.
I listed the American laws aimed at introducing an enormous number of sanctions against Iran. However, Iran also has a parliament that has adopted a law on strategic measures with a certain timeframe that is taken into account during the current contacts in Vienna.
I don’t think we have a lot of time. Obviously, those who want to bury the JCPOA are resorting to various provocations just because there is a certain timeframe.
I hope common sense will prevail and our European colleagues will realise their responsibility for the JCPOA and won’t follow in the wake of those who want to wreck and bury this agreement.