Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, May 23, 2019

May 23, 2019


US Pressure on Iran

We are seriously concerned about the anti-Iran hysteria being whipped up in the United States. The latest round began after Teheran's announcement of its intention to suspend performance of part of its obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding the Iranian nuclear programme, in response to massive US sanctions.

The question is whether Iranians have the right to take such steps. In our opinion, and according to international law, logic and an understanding of the recent years’ developments, of course they have the full right to take such steps on the basis of UNSC Resolution 2231, which approved the JCPOA in 2015. Its Article 26 says that “Iran has stated that it will treat < ...> a re-introduction or re-imposition of the sanctions <...> as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part.” So the issue of whether or not Iran has such right can be considered closed and not subject to discussion.

So no complaints can be made against Iran in the context of the JCPOA. At the same time, there is an obvious paradox, with the US having left the agreement a year ago but demanding that Iran stick to it. Speaking of the theory of US exceptionalism, this is one of its elements. Adherents of this theory in Washington, who speak about it and implement it, are apparently insisting that the US exclude itself from the modern international law system, step by step – but others should remain under these and other obligations.

The US is aggravating the situation by sending aircraft carriers and bombers to the Persian Gulf area, which is accompanied by bellicose statements and groundless and unsubstantiated accusations that Iran is engaged in “subversive activity” in the surrounding region and creating threats to US diplomats in neighbouring Iraq. However, Washington does not recall those Iraqis who were killed as a result of its actions.

It seems that Washington uses sanctions, military pressure and harsh, aggressive rhetoric to provoke a tougher response from Iran, and even seek a pretext for direct confrontation.

This is a very dangerous policy which is intended not only to deliberately destroy the JCPOA, which Iran has strictly complied with, but which runs the risk of destabilising the entire Middle East region.  

We would recommend that the US consider the consequences of its aggressive behaviour and think about additional problems that such a policy could create for this long-suffering region and for international security as a whole. Otherwise, Washington will have to bear full responsibility.

Once again, Russia advocates that a meeting of the Joint Commission of the JCPOA members be convened promptly. Coordinated efforts are required to preserve the agreement and seek ways forward. The US should not impede this.

Situation in the Persian Gulf

It worried us to learn that on May 12 four oil tankers, two of them Saudi-owned, one owned by the United Arab Emirates and one Norwegian vessel, which were sailing under the flags of various countries in the UAE’s territorial waters off the coast of the Emirate of Fujairah, were the target of attacks or acts of sabotage committed by unidentified individuals. Fortunately, the incidents caused no casualties and no serious damage was inflicted. Nor did the incidents lead to oil spills in the open sea. 

Based on incoming information, the UAE authorities promptly started to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incidents. We believe it is necessary to carefully look into who is responsible for these incidents and the real motives of the organisers of these acts. 

Incidents like these cannot but raise our concern. They create a threat to safe international sea traffic, especially, along the strategically important trading routes passing through this area.

All this is contributing to tensions that are already running high in the Persian Gulf area following the considerable reinforcement of the US Navy group deployed there. Unfortunately, the Americans still believe that by exerting intense pressure on Iran, they can force it to cede ground, in particular, to scrap its missile programme and stop its alleged interference in the domestic affairs of other countries.  

We believe that the evolving situation is fraught with fatal consequences and may plunge the region into a large-scale military confrontation that will lead to numerous casualties and considerable damage. Obviously, in this case all parties involved will be worse off.


Question: Earlier this week, Iranian Ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanai held meetings with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov. Could you tell us what was discussed and what diplomatic work is being pursued by Russia and Iran?

Maria Zakharova: Relevant press releases have been posted on the Foreign Ministry website following the meetings.

As far as the interaction with Iran is concerned, with all due respect for the level of relations between the ambassador and the deputy foreign ministers you have mentioned, there is a most active dialogue directly between the foreign ministers [of Russia and Iran]. They hold regular meetings and telephone conversations on the entire range of bilateral relations. There are a lot of global and regional matters, which are influencing the international agenda and to which our two countries are making an important contribution. Some cases in point are the Syrian settlement, the situation in the Middle East as a whole, and the developments in the Gulf area. These concern security and stability, including in a situation where a number of forces are attempting to meddle in the region’s affairs in order to force it to obey rules of their own making. Russia and our colleagues, including from Iran, are opposing these approaches because we are guided by the principle of respect for sovereignty of specific states. We proceed from the assumption that the region, which has a number of umbrella organisations, an ancient history and much experience in settling conflicts, is capable of addressing its problems on its own and certainly has no need for someone’s aggressive policy aimed at changing the internal agenda.

Therefore, we are promoting active dialogue on economic matters that in some way or other are related to international politics, taking into consideration the sanctions pressure applied to Iran, as well as on many other aspects.

Question: After the visit of US State Secretary Mike Pompeo and the meeting between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Austria Alexander Van der Bellen, some experts from various Arab media outlets started interpreting Vladimir Putin’s remark that Russia was not a fire brigade and that it could not rescue everyone everywhere as Russia’s changed position with regard to Iran. Has Russia modified its position on Iran after Mike Pompeo’s visit?

Maria Zakharova: Our relations with Iran develop at various levels, including the top and high levels, and at the level of heads of foreign ministries and diplomatic missions. Active dialogue is underway. Certainly, we live in a world, rather than in a vacuum. The multi-vector modern international relations presuppose complex forms. But, speaking of the context mentioned by you, our relations with Iran do not depend on contacts with other countries.