A breakthrough agreement to end the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program appeared to face its first major difficulty on Friday with Russia warning that expanding a US sanctions blacklist could seriously complicate the deal’s implementation.
Russia, which, along with the US, is among the six world powers that negotiated the Nov. 24 interim accord with Tehran, echoed Iranian criticism that it violated the spirit of the deal and could “block things.”
The US on Thursday blacklisted additional companies and people under existing sanctions intended to prevent Iran from obtaining the capability to make nuclear weapons. Iran denies any such aims.
Diplomats said Iran, in what appeared to be a response, interrupted technical talks in Vienna with the six nations over how to implement the agreement, under which Tehran is to curb its atomic activities in return for limited sanctions easing.
The developments highlighted potential obstacles negotiators face in pressing ahead with efforts to resolve a decade-old dispute between the Islamic Republic and the West that has stirred fears of a new Middle East war.
Western diplomats said the inconclusive outcome of the expert-level discussions that ended on Thursday should not be seen as a sign that the deal hammered out nearly three weeks ago was in trouble.
However, Iranian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Abbas Araqchi told Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency in reaction to the US decision that it was evaluating the situation and would “react accordingly.”
“It is against the spirit of the Geneva deal,” he added.
Russia also made its concerns clear.
“The US administration’s decision goes against the spirit of this document,” Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, referring to the Geneva agreement between Iran and the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany. “Widening American ‘blacklists’ could seriously complicate the fulfillment of the Geneva agreement, which proposes easing sanctions pressure.”
In Washington, US Department of State spokeswoman Marie Harf said she did not think the blacklistings announced on Thursday had made the negotiations more difficult.
“No, I don’t. I think it was always going to be very complicated,” Harf told reporters, adding that the US had told Iranian officials in Vienna that more designations were coming.