News Conference Following Talks with Austrian Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen (Excerpts)

May 15, 2019

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear


Federal President of Austria Alexander Van der Bellen (retranslated): [...] We had an interesting conversation about yesterday’s visit of Secretary of State Pompeo, in part, as regards the Iranian issue, what this will or may mean for EU-Russia relations and so on.

You know, big regrets were expressed here over the JCPOA cancellation and the sanctions that are imposed by the USA against Iran and indirectly against EU member states.


Question (retranslated): I would like to talk about your conversation with Mr Pompeo.

Mr President Putin, you said that both sides are interested in restoring relations between the United States and Russia in full. What has to be done to get there? And are you ready for a personal meeting with Mr Trump? What do you think about the idea of holding this summit in Vienna, where the nuclear deal on Iran was concluded?

Vladimir Putin: [...] Finally, the Iranian nuclear problem and the JCPOA is also a very sensitive issue that is linked with the entire scope of situations in the Middle East.


Question (retranslated): I have a question for President Putin and for Mr Van der Bellen.

Tensions over the Iran nuclear deal have been mounting over the past several days. What can Russia do to save this treaty? The Kremlin said it would like to keep the treaty intact. What can be done?

A question for President Van der Bellen. Does Europe expect Russia to save this treaty?

Vladimir Putin: We have always been supportive of this treaty, and we worked on it for a long time with our partners. Truth be told, Iran played a key role in having this treaty signed. The United States, and we stood by and helped the participants of this process. I hope our assistance was effective, as it took the process to its logical conclusion, i.e., the signing of the JCPOA.

We regret the fact that the treaty is unravelling. Our partners, including the United States, are aware of our position. We advocated the preservation of these agreements. Since the treaty was signed, Iran has remained the most audited and transparent country in this respect. I personally had a conversation with the IAEA Director, who told me (he told me this in person, by the way, when we met in Sochi) that Iran is honouring all of its commitments. Well, what can I add to that?

Nevertheless, our US partners chose to withdraw from this treaty. We deplore the things that are happening now. I have repeatedly mentioned this in my conversations with our Iranian partners that, in my opinion, it would be better for Iran to remain a party to this treaty despite everything. I am about to say a non-diplomatic thing that may not sit well on the ears of our European friends. The Americans are out, the treaty is falling apart, and the European countries are unable to do anything to save it and are unable to actually work with Iran in order to compensate for the economic losses. However, should Iran ever take the first step in response and declare that it is pulling out from somewhere, the next day everyone will forget that the United States initiated the end of the treaty, and the blame for everything will be laid on Iran. International public opinion will purposefully drift in this direction. I have told the Iranians this so many times. Frankly, I do not see how withdrawing from the treaty will benefit them. I am now saying it freely and openly, because I have told them this many times during our talks. Let us see what happens next.

Russia is not a firefighting rescue crew. We cannot save things that are not fully under our control. We have played our part, and we are ready to continue to play the same positive role, but it does not depend solely on us. It depends on all our partners and all the parties, including the United States, the European countries and Iran.

Alexander Van der Bellen: I have little to add, unfortunately. The IAEA inspected Iran 13 times at least and the conclusions were that Iran was in compliance with the JCPOA. The US sanctions are entirely a US decision. This certainly does not help international relations. When a country withdraws from a treaty without sufficient cause, it undermines faith in the treaty in principle.

From the European viewpoint, the most provocative fact is, I believe, that after withdrawing from the JCPOA the US announced new sanctions against Iran and said simultaneously that all European companies continuing to cooperate with Iran would also be punished. Bur here we can put two and two together and see if it works. US relations with certain companies turn out to be more important than with Iran. The European Union still has not found an effective tool to resist this. We have been working on this for about a year. I remember President Rouhani speaking about this in Vienna. Evidently, it is very difficult just to up and support Iran. It is my impression that any additional pressure on Iran will aggravate political relations even more. We can argue about how realistic this is, but, in my opinion, if the US keeps putting pressure on Iran, it will increase the risk of a new crisis the way it happened with Iraq several years ago, and no one in Europe wants this to happen.