Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov’s Interview with the Interfax News Agency (Excerpts)

December 23, 2020

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear


Question: Are we ready to persuade the Iranians that there’s no need for any preconditions for the US returning to the JCPOA? To what extent can Iran’s claims for possible financial compensation from the United States be seen as legitimate in this case? In turn, the IAEA Director General said that additional protocols would be required if we want to properly restart this agreement.

Sergey Ryabkov: I haven’t heard about any preconditions on the part of Iran. I know for sure that Iran has officially declared its willingness to return to full compliance with the JCPOA as soon as possible, but for now, as you may be aware, Iran’s non-compliance with the JCPOA requirements concerns only the obligation it has assumed of its own accord, which is to return to the JCPOA as soon as the United States does so. I suspect that the United States will insist on the reverse order and will want Iran to be first.

I’m not even talking about additional requirements that may turn up. I’m talking about a situation where both sides – Washington and Tehran – operate on the premise that it is better to keep the JCPOA in its original form. By the way, we are also in favour of this approach. Given this, the right thing to do would be to develop in advance a plan, a schedule, a roadmap outlining the sequence of steps, so as not to end up in a situation of endless dispute over who should take the first step, blink first, etc. We just spoke in favour of this.

At some point, the phased-in approach and reciprocity as the principles underlying the JCPOA were proposed by Russia, namely, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and formed the basis of this arrangement. It can be pictured as a phased-in approach and reciprocity with the opposite sign, as if returning to compliance. This is a natural political and mathematical approach, it just suggests itself, and there’s nothing unusual about it. We are supportive of it. However, if you start building on top of the existing deal, the situation might worsen dramatically. That’s why we believe that putting forward ideas like JCPOA+ is wrong and untimely.

The Iranians are also saying that their interest is, first, to benefit economically from participating in this deal, which they couldn’t do, especially after the Trump administration left the JCPOA in May 2018. But other aspects of this vast array of questions, which our Western colleagues are talking about, cause rejection in Tehran, as far as I can understand. I admit that Iran’s approach makes sense: various aspects of the matters that we are discussing and which are unrelated to the JCPOA have their own formats, where they should be discussed. We proposed a security concept for the Persian Gulf and platforms to discuss it. The Chinese came up with a proposal of their own, and the Iranians put forward a security initiative for the Strait of Hormuz. At some point, there was a corresponding dialogue under the auspices of the European External Action Service with the participation of Iran and other countries. This can be organised if desired, but restoring the JCPOA in its original form should be our primary goal. What we need is a certain algorithm which may well be agreed upon provided, of course, that the next US administration is interested in it rather than be taken captive by the policy of maximum sanctions pressure in the form that has been practiced by the Trump administration for quite a while now.