Russia warns that Iran nuclear talks too slow to forestall conflict
Russian is uniquely placed to mediate between Iran and world powers, but analysts say Moscow's role is limited in part by a lack of compromise from Washington and Tehran.
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"Many people in Russia understand that nuclear is not the core of the crisis, but [rather] the low level of US-Iran relations," says Mr. Khlopkov, editor of the Nuclear Club journal. "So Russia sees itself as a mediator, but the keys to the problem are in Washington and Tehran. So if those keys are not used, no amount of effort can make a difference."Skip to next paragraph
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And after three rounds already this year, it is still not clear how far either side is willing to compromise. After the Moscow talks, both sides publicly portrayed the other as having to make a "choice" for diplomacy and to prove sincere intent.
Russia as mediator
Russia invested some diplomatic capital in the outcome, aware that any breakthrough would be a foreign policy feather in the cap of recently reelected President Vladimir Putin.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Tehran the week before the talks, and senior officials were very active during negotiations and on the sidelines, trying to prevent a breakdown. Mr. Putin and President Obama also issued a joint statement from the G-20 summit in Mexico, calling on Iran to fulfill its "obligations."
"The Russians feel the Iranians are quite serious," says Vladimir Sotnikov, a senior researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. "I was in Iran in April and saw myself Iranians suffering high prices ... so they need these negotiations."
Russia is also quite serious about finding a solution, says Mr. Sotnikov. During a conference in the city of Qazvin, the Iranians spoke of an Iran-Russian "strategic partnership" and "said it would be easier to force out outside powers from the region."
Still, the recent history of those ties has fluctuated between hot and cold, sometimes in a matter of days.
The result is less leverage on Iran than other members of the P5+1 might think, says Sotnikov: "Russia has some influence, but not enough to persuade Iran to be compliant with international demands."
"Yes, serious sanctions influence the situation in Iran, but one can't go one making pressure on Iran on and on," says Vladimir Yevseyev, director Russian Center for Socio-Political Studies, who spoke at the press conference. "Now there is talk about economic blockade, then there will be a naval blockade and what will be next? Military action? One can't toughen sanctions forever. It leads us to a dead end."