Russia has proposed a nuclear deal with Iran, involving the lifting of sanctions if Tehran agrees to put all its atomic installations under international supervision.

Demonstrating a nimble-footed assertion of its West Asia policy — already visible in its high profile role in dousing the flames in Syria — Moscow also seems prepared to play a leading diplomatic role in resolving the enduring crisis in Iran.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov pointed out on Wednesday that all sanctions against Iran should be removed, provided Tehran agrees to put its entire nuclear programme under international control. His statement followed the conclusion of two-day talks between Iran and the six global powers — the first after President Hassan Rouhani assumed office. Iran’s new administration, which includes the urbane and articulate Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, has repeatedly stated its willingness to engage with foreign partners to normalise ties with the West, which have been strained for decades.

Moscow is insisting that any deal, if it has to materialise, must allow Iran to carry out uranium enrichment, permitted by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which Tehran has signed.

On its part, Iran has also made the right noises to support Moscow’s advocacy that sanctions, including the biting unilateral economic curbs, against Tehran must be scrapped.

Analysts say, Iran may be willing to limit enrichment to 5 per cent, which is necessary to fire a string of atomic power plants, which Tehran plans to establish. In the past, Iran’s successful enrichment of uranium to a 20 per cent level had apparently alarmed the West, which apprehended that if it managed to enrich to a 90 per cent level, Iran would be in striking distance of developing an atomic bomb.

Mr. Ryabkov said Russian President Vladimir Putin visualised that Iran’s “inseparable rights under the Non-proliferation Treaty should be accompanied by the introduction of full comprehensive international control over the Iranian nuclear programme”. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also supported Moscow’s position by saying, “To begin with the unilateral sanctions need to be removed.”

Despite the string of constructive ideas that were tossed up during the Geneva talks, a sequence of steps that each side should adopt that would allow phased lifting of sanctions was yet to emerge. Mr. Ryabkov stressed that arriving at a common understanding on stages and steps that would allow the successive lifting of sanctions would emerge as a prime impediment in the talks ahead. He also alluded to the “low level of trust” between Iran and its six interlocutors — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, as an obstacle to the smooth progression of a dialogue.

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