Russia May Alter its Position on Iran in Standoff With West

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrive to give a press statement on Wednesday, the second day of a multilateral meeting on Tehran's nuclear program. A Russian diplomat on Wednesday warned his nation could alter its position in the talks amid tensions with other negotiating countries.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrive to give a press statement on Wednesday, the second day of a multilateral meeting on Tehran's nuclear program. A Russian diplomat on Wednesday warned his nation could alter its position in the talks amid tensions with other negotiating countries. (Dieter Nagl/AFP/Getty Images)

A Russian envoy said Moscow may alter its approach to an atomic dialogue with Iran in a standoff with other negotiating powers, the Associated Press reports.

A multilateral effort to defuse a nuclear dispute with Iran would take a back seat to Russia's "reunification" with the Crimean Peninsula, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Wednesday. Moscow moved this week to annex the Ukrainian territory, prompting a sanctions backlash from Western participants in the dialogue over concerns that Tehran could tap its civilian atomic capabilities to build nuclear weapons.

"We wouldn't like to use these talks [to raise] the stakes," Ryabkov said in a report by Interfax. "But if they force us into that, we will take retaliatory measures here as well."

The envoy did not say how the Kremlin's positions regarding the Persian Gulf nation might change.

In Vienna, a high-level Obama official on Wednesday said the Crimea tensions did not dramatically affect this week's two-day meeting between Iranian diplomats and counterparts from the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany.

"There was [an] affirmation and a commitment to stay focused on the work in the room, and everyone did so," the insider said in a background briefing with reporters.

The official voiced hope that the standoff would not undermine international cooperation to address the Iran dispute.

"But I can’t tell you today for a certainty that that will be the case because all of the events happening in the world are not under our control," the figure stated.

On Thursday, a senior European Union diplomat said Iranian negotiators appeared "very committed" to hammering out a long-term arrangement by July to address their country's nuclear work, Reuters reported.

"We still have a lot of work ahead of us. On some areas, positions differ widely," Helga Schmid, a representative for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, added in a statement to high-level personnel from across the 28-nation bloc she represents.

March 20, 2014
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A Russian envoy said Moscow may alter its approach to an atomic dialogue with Iran in a standoff with other negotiating powers, the Associated Press reports.