Keep Iran missiles out of talks: Russia

Russia says the nuclear talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany should not include the Islamic Republic’s missile program. “The Russian side considers that a comprehensive agreement must concern only and exclusively the matters regarding the restoration of trust in a purely peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program, which signifies preoccupation with nuclear affairs and nuclear aspects of all these things,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Thursday. Earlier this month, US Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman told US Senators that Iran’s missiles would be addressed under a final nuclear deal over Tehran’s nuclear energy program. On February 11, White House National Security Council (NSC) Spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan also told the Washington Free Beacon website that the US aims to stop Iran’s missile tests under a final deal over Tehran’s nuclear energy program. The Russian diplomat further emphasized that “matters relating to Iran's rocket program are utterly complex inherently.” Iranian officials have time and again stressed that the nuclear issue will be the only subject on the agenda of the talks between Iran and the six powers. On Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham said, “Military issues have nothing to do with the nuclear issue and they have no place in the nuclear negotiations.” Elsewhere in his remarks, Ryabkov said Iran and the six powers may conclude a comprehensive agreement by July 20 if the current “political will” is retained. “There is an understanding that it will be possible to meet that time frame if political will is preserved,” he said. Iran and the six countries held their latest round of talks in the Austrian capital, Vienna, on February 18-19. Tehran and its opposite negotiating team finalized a framework for comprehensive talks to reach a final agreement. The talks in Vienna came after the two sides clinched a landmark interim deal in the Swiss city of Geneva in November 2013. The deal took effect on January 20. Ryabkov described the Geneva deal as “very precise, balanced and hard-won starting point for future work.” “Reading the Geneva Plan of Action carefully, you will find answers to many questions in it,” he said, adding “The themes that we will have to deal with are already reflected in it.”