Russia said Monday it viewed the European Union’s oil embargo on Iran as counterproductive and would continue to defend Tehran against further sanctions over its nuclear programme.
“Unilateral sanctions do not help matters,” Russian news agencies quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying in response to the EU decision.
“We will restrain everyone from making harsh moves. We will seek the resumption of negotiations.”
Lavrov added he was confident that talks between Iran and the Western powers could be resumed soon.
“Moscow believes that there are fairly firm prospects for the resumption of talks in the immediate future,” he said.
“These opportunities exist despite an entire series of recent steps, including those taken by the IAEA director general.”
Russia has been fiercely critical of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog for issuing a report in November claiming it had “credible” intelligence showing Tehran’s interest in acquiring nuclear weapons.
Lavrov has argued that the report contained nothing new and insisted that any sanctions beyond the four rounds approved already by the UN Security Council only threatened to harm the Iranian people.
“Since we have already adopted collective sanctions in the UN Security Council, everyone should be keeping to that line, adding nothing and taking nothing away from the common position,” Lavrov said.
The EU agreed an embargo on Iran’s oil exports Monday as well as financial sanctions as the West ramped up pressure on Tehran to press it to return to the negotiating table.
In the toughest action yet to reduce Iran’s ability to fund a nuclear weapons programme, the EU ministers are also set to target the country’s central bank, ban investment and imports of petrochemicals and the sale of gold, diamonds and other precious metals to Iran.