Russia Warns the West it May Side with Iran
Russia warned the West on Wednesday that it may revise its stance in the Iranian nuclear talks in an act of retaliation over the West’s sanctions on it, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, according to the Interfax news agency, that Russia did not want to use the Iranian nuclear talks to "raise the stakes," but may have to do so in response to the actions by the United States and the European Union.
The statement is the most serious threat of retaliation by Moscow after the U.S. and the EU announced sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region.
On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin drafted a parliamentary bill for Crimea to be annexed as part of Russia, completing yet another step in the road for the peninsula to legally leave Ukraine.
Putin has thus far thumbed his nose at sanctions from the EU and U.S. In another move of defiance, the Russian president released his own blacklist of U.S. officials to be sanctioned hours earlier, just after he declared that he recognized Crimea as a "sovereign and independent state."
Ryabkov, who is Russia's envoy to the Iranian talks, said Wednesday that Russia considers the "reunification" with Crimea as far more important than the developments surrounding the Iranian nuclear program.
Russia has cooperated with the United States and other Western nations in the Iranian talks, but Ryabkov warned that its attitude may now change.
"We wouldn't like to use these talks as an element of the game of raising the stakes taking into account the sentiments in some European capitals, Brussels and Washington," he said, according to AP.
"But if they force us into that, we will take retaliatory measures here as well. The historic importance of what happened in the last weeks and days regarding the restoration of historical justice and reunification of Crimea with Russia is incomparable to what we are dealing with in the Iranian issue," said Ryabkov.
The comments came as another round of talks between Iran and Western powers, known as the P5+1, was taking place in Vienna.
Under a six-month interim deal which was reached in November and went into effect in January, Iran agreed to freeze its uranium enrichment program in return for sanctions relief worth some $6-7 billion, including the transfer of some $4.2 billion in frozen overseas funds.
That interim agreement is meant to lead to a final accord that minimizes any potential Iranian nuclear weapons threat in return for a full lifting of sanctions.