State Dept says Iran nuclear deal will not be an 'escape hatch' for Russian sanctions

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The State Department on Tuesday warned that any attempt by Russia to push sanction relief as the UN looks to secure a nuclear deal with Iran will fail.

“The JCPOA is not going to be an escape hatch for the Russian Federation and the sanctions that have been imposed on it because of the war in Ukraine,” State Department press secretary Ned Price told reporters.

Ukrainian National Guard, Armed Forces, special operations units exercise as they simulate a crisis situation in an urban settlement, in the abandoned city of Pripyat near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, Ukraine, Feb. 4, 2022. 
(AP Photo/Mykola Tymchenko, File)

Price’s comments come after talks on reaching a nuclear deal with Iran have once again stalled, though this time over Russian demands.

Russia, a member of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) along with the U.K., France, Germany, the European Union and China, threw a wrench in the near-yearlong negotiations after it called for its own sanction relief to be included in the dealings. 

The West hit Moscow with crippling sanctions following its deadly invasion of Ukraine three weeks ago – a move that has already had devastating effects on Russia’s economy. 

Russian negotiators last week stalled the nuclear deal by demanding sanction immunity for any future trade with Iran.

Vladimir President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine only eight months after TIME magazine billed President Biden as ready to take on the Russian leader. 
(Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Price on Tuesday said talks were ongoing but noted “we’re not there yet.”

“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” he added. 

It is unclear if the U.S. has agreed to any of Russia’s demands, but the State Department spokesman said the U.S. would not sanction Russia “for undertaking or participating in nuclear projects that are part of the JCPOA.”

Russia supported the original 2015 JCPOA agreement that held until 2019 when Tehran argued it was no longer bound by the deal following the U.S.’s withdrawal in 2018. 

Price argued Russia still supports the agreement and said a nuclear Iran was not in Moscow’s “interest.”

“We hope to be able to complete a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA in short order,” the spokesman told reporters.  “We should be able to if negotiators, if the parties, come together and negotiate in good faith and close out these remaining outstanding issues.”

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during a news conference.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his own sanctions on the U.S. Tuesday and targeted President Biden along with a number of top administration officials.

The White House dismissed the sanctions as trivial and noted none of those targeted had banks in Russia or planned to take a trip to the country any time in the near future.

Price was not included on the list of officials sanctioned.

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