Russia and China have quietly made clear to the Iranian government they want Tehran to change its approach to the nuclear issue and accept a UN atomic fuel offer, Western diplomats said on Tuesday.
Russia’s and China’s coordinated diplomatic approaches took place in Tehran around the beginning of this month, several Western UN Security Council diplomats said.
They said it was significant that two powers seen as blocking Western efforts to get tough on Tehran appeared to be using their influence behind the scenes to ratchet up the pressure on Iran.
“Russia and China had a demarche in Tehran to try and get them to shift their position on the nuclear issue, particularly with regard to the Tehran Research Reactor,” one diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
“The Russians and Chinese were saying that their position [on a new sanctions resolution] would depend on Iran’s response to the demarches,” the diplomat said.
Another Western diplomat confirmed the Russian and Chinese “demarche,” a formal diplomatic approach that can be anything from a gentle expression of displeasure to an angry protest.
“The Russians said they got nothing from Iran,” the second diplomat said. “The Chinese said they got a response from the Iranians to wait a little longer and they will come up with something. But they [China] didn’t get anything in the end.”
Russian frustration has been growing since Tehran snubbed a UN nuclear watchdog plan under which the Iranians would ship most of their low-enriched uranium to Russia and France for further enrichment and processing into fuel assemblies for a reactor for medical isotopes.
While China has urged Tehran to accept the International Atomic Energy Agency plan, it has repeatedly said the time was not right for new sanctions against Iran. Beijing has yet to react to a sanctions proposal drafted by Washington and circulated to Russia, China and the three European powers.
But China’s refusal to engage in what Western diplomats described as “substantive discussions” on a new round of sanctions may have come to an end, envoys said.
“The Chinese have finally agreed to participate in a conference call this week to discuss sanctions,” a Western diplomat said.
That call, among senior foreign ministry officials from the five permanent Security Council members and Germany, was tentatively scheduled for yesterday.
“The Iranians clearly haven’t come around after China’s and Russia’s demarches, so perhaps the Chinese are accepting that the time to discuss sanctions has come,” one diplomat said, adding that “you never know with the Chinese.”
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