x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 25 November 2017

Russia wants Iran arms embargo 'lifted as soon as possible'

'Iran is a consistent supporter of the struggle against ISIL and lifting the arms embargo would help Iran to advance its efficiency in fighting terrorism,' said Russia's foreign minister.

UFA, RUSSIA // The UN arms embargo on Iran should be lifted as soon as possible, Russia’s foreign minister said on Thursday, pledging to help Tehran contribute to the fight against terrorism.

The arms embargo is among stumbling blocks at talks in Vienna between Iran and six major powers, including Russia, on curbing Tehran’s nuclear programme in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

“We are calling for lifting the embargo as soon as possible and we will support the choices that Iran’s negotiators make,” Mr Lavrov said on the sidelines of the Brics summit in Ufa, Russia.

“Iran is a consistent supporter of the struggle against ISIL and lifting the arms embargo would help Iran to advance its efficiency in fighting terrorism,” he said.

Iran has insisted there should be changes to the UN arms embargo and an easing of restrictions on missile sales, a prospect that alarms rivals of Iran and US allies in the region.

Mr Lavrov, who left the talks on Iran’s nuclear programme in Vienna on Tuesday, said a nuclear deal with Tehran was “within reach” and that he was ready to return to Vienna to sign the final agreement “at any moment”.He stressed that the UN security council arms embargo had been imposed to force Iran to negotiate, a goal that had “long been reached”.

His comments came as Russian president Vladimir Putin met his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani in Ufa.

Mr Putin said he hoped a permanent agreement on Tehran’s nuclear programme would be reached soon, a Kremlin spokesman said.

Mr Rouhani in turn thankedr Moscow for its efforts to secure an agreement at talks between six major powers and Iran on Tehran’s nuclear programme.

“Putin underlined the positive dynamic in the talks on Iran’s nuclear programme and expressed hope that the necessary compromise will be found in the near future,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding that the leaders had also discussed possible cooperation against ISIL.

A senior western diplomat in Vienna said there was nothing new in the Russian position on the weapons embargo.

“That said, we are working collectively on a way forward on this difficult issue,” the senior western official said.

Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi said Tehran’s demand for an end to a UN arms embargo was among the most contentious unresolved points.

Western countries are not keen to allow Iran to begin importing arms because of its role supporting sides in conflicts in the Middle East.

The UN weapons and missile sanctions were imposed with Russia’s consent nearly a decade ago, but Moscow has become hostile to the idea of sanctions since the US and European Union began sanctioning it for annexing Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula last year.

Moscow and Tehran are interested in finishing a deal on the sale to Iran of Russian anti-aircraft missiles.

The Kremlin signed a decree in April lifting a self-imposed ban on the delivery of the S-300 anti- aircraft defence systems to Iran, prompting objections from the US and Israel.

Shipment of the weapons could begin by next year, Vladimir Kozhin, the Kremlin’s top official for the arms trade, said last month.

Before leaving Tehran on Wednesday, Rouhani was quoted by the semi-official Mehr news agency as saying that “Iran is preparing itself for after the negotiations and after sanctions, in which our relations with other countries ... will expand”.

Earlier this week, a senior western diplomat said that despite Russia’s and China’s known opposition to the arms embargo and sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile programme, they had decided not to break ranks with the West on the issue.

* Bloomberg, Reuters and Agence France-Presse