Russia concerned about ‘escalation’ around Iran

MOSCOW (Agencies): Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday that Russia is concerned about the “escalation” around Iran. 

Lavrov criticized US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said Washington considers “military options to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

The top Russian diplomat pointed out that religious leaders in Iran long ago issued a fatwa — a legal ruling on a point of Islamic law — prohibiting the development of nuclear weapons.

“The Iranian religious leadership has long issued a fatwa that prohibits the development of nuclear weapons. If anyone had doubts about this, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) provided the most stringent and strict regime for verifying Iran’s nuclear program,” he said at a news conference in Moscow, following a meeting with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry.

He noted that it was the US who withdrew from the JCPOA, also known as the Iran nuclear deal.

“We believe that it is a huge mistake of the West. First of all, of the participants in the JCPOA for the Settlement of the Iranian Nuclear Program, they have taken a frank course to scrap this important document, which was approved unanimously by the UN Security Council.

“They prefer to ignore the resolutions of the Security Council and switch to aggressive actions, including the use of military force, instead of following the decisions of the highest UN body,” he said.

Lavrov confirmed that Shoukry conveyed to him Blinken’s message, which contains nothing but calls “to stop military operation” in Ukraine.

The minister argued that Ukraine does not matter at all, it is only a tool for the West “to prevent any events in the international arena that will somehow call into question the US claims to hegemony in the modern world.”

He cited words by NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who said: “Russia must lose, must be defeated, and the West cannot allow Ukraine to lose, because then the West will lose, the whole world will lose,” meaning the West-centered world.

He noted that despite statements about NATO’s non-involvement in the conflict in Ukraine, the alliance has long been taking part in a “hybrid war against Russia.”

Lavrov said the Russian army is “taking all measures to ensure that the plans of the West in Ukraine do not come true.”

Commenting on contacts between Türkiye and Syria, Lavrov said Moscow considers it “logical” that Iran will participate in new contacts.

“Naturally, an agreement in principle has now been reached on the Islamic Republic of Iran joining in this work (organization of contacts between Türkiye and Syria),” said Lavrov, noting that the three countries are also members of the Astana “troika,” engaged in the Syrian settlement.

“Therefore, I think it is absolutely logical that further contacts dedicated to promoting the normalization of Turkish-Syrian relations will be accompanied by Russia and Iran,” he said.

He said there are no concrete dates for a Russian-Iranian-Turkish-Syrian meeting at the moment, as well as there is no understanding at what level – military or diplomatic — it will be held.

“Here we have a full understanding that we need to move step by step so that each next step brings at least some — albeit small, but concrete results,” he said.

Lavrov praised Russian-Egyptian cooperation, including in the military domain and said both countries are “seriously” concerned about the escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We reaffirmed on both sides the need to restart the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations as soon as possible in the interests of resolving key issues,” he said.

Shoukry said Cairo continues efforts “to find diplomatic solutions to the crisis” in Ukraine.

He said Egypt plans to expand the range of trade turnover with Russia in different areas and increase the share of payments in national currencies.

“We have been working for a long time to develop appropriate mechanisms that will allow us, in the spirit of greater sovereignty, to use them (national currencies) in our trading operations. We intend to increase the volume of transactions in these currencies,” he said.

Shoukry added that the parties “will have a series of consultations on this issue” and both “are aimed at furthering work in this direction.”