18:51 GMT24 September 2020
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    The Russian president met with representatives of several Arab-language media outlets to discuss a variety of issues: from the situation in the Middle East region and attacks on oil facilities and tankers there to bilateral ties between the US and Russia.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged the US, Israel, and Iran to overcome their disagreements in a bid to revive the talks on Iranian nuclear programme. In his opinion, if this condition is fulfilled new talks in the 5+1 format, which last time resulted in the signing of the Iran nuclear deal, are possible.

    The president further said that it's improper to unilaterally decide, whether or not Iran is fulfilling its obligations under the nuclear deal, referring to allegations by Israel and the US. Putin stressed that this should be done by a neutral, non-aligned actor, like the International Atomic Energy Agency.

    Heavy water nuclear facility near Arak, Iran
    © AP Photo / Hamid Foroutan
    Heavy water nuclear facility near Arak, Iran

    The Russian president also noted that in light of the US withdrawal from the accord and re-imposition of sanctions against Tehran, it was no surprise that Iran had decided to start backtracking on its obligations under it. Putin added that "it would be better" if Iran adhered to the provisions of the deal.

    The future of the Iran nuclear deal, signed by the 5+1 group of countries in 2015, remains in question following the US withdrawal from the accord in 2018, citing alleged flaws in the document, and re-imposition of sanctions against the Islamic Republic. These actions prompted Tehran to start backtracking on its commitments under the agreement a year later, sparking concerns that the nuclear deal may fall apart.

    No Information About Attacks on Iranian Tanker

    During an interview with several media outlets, Putin assured that Russia is unaware of the perpetrator behind the 9 October attack on the Iranian tanker Sabiti.

    "You might not believe it, but we don't [know who's behind the attacks]. On the day after the attack, I immediately asked the heads of the Ministry of Defence and Russian intelligence about it. But, unfortunately, we don't have any credible information about this incident at the moment", Putin said.

    The owner of the Sabiti reported on 9 October that the tanker, sailing around 100 kilometres from the Saudi port of Jeddah had sustained damage due to two missile attacks that came within 30-minute intervals. The attack damaged the vessel's tanks, leading to an oil spill, and forcing it to change course and sail towards Iranian waters. Tehran promised to deliver an "appropriate response" once it determines who was behind the attack.

    Russia Ready to Help Riyadh in Investigating Saudi Aramco Attack

    The Russian president also shared that in talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman he promised that Moscow would provide any assistance "required to properly investigate" the attacks on Saudi refineries, which took place on 14 September.

    "We, and I personally, have been in contact with the Saudi leadership, including the crown prince, and we have discussed this incident with him. I told him that I think it is necessary to obtain evidence, to find the culprit and proof that someone is behind this action. And, in general, the crown prince agreed with me”, Putin said.

    He also cautioned against jumping to conclusions about the perpetrators behind the attack and to wait for the results of the official investigation. Putin opined it's unlikely that the organisers of the attack sought to boost oil prices, as they would never achieve this goal via this method. The president said that in his opinion the price fluctuations were "not that significant".

    The Russian president's comment comes after the US directly accused Iran of organising drone and missile attacks on Saudi Aramco refineries in September, despite Yemeni Houthis claiming responsibility for the assault. Riyadh is still investigating the incident, which temporarily crippled the country's crude output, but has so far only reported that the drones used in it were of Iranian origin.

    Saudi defence ministry spokesman Colonel Turki Al-Malik displays remains of the missiles which Saudi government says were used to attack an Aramco oil facility, during a news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia September 18, 2019
    Saudi defence ministry spokesman Colonel Turki Al-Malik displays remains of the missiles which Saudi government says were used to attack an Aramco oil facility, during a news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia September 18, 2019

    Tehran denied being responsible for the attack and indicated that it was a result of Saudi Arabia's military conflict with the Yemeni Houthis. Iran further demanded access to Riyadh's findings about the downed drones' remains to confirm their origin.

    Can't Blame Trump for Lack of Normalisation of Bilateral Ties With US

    Putin also commented on the current state of bilateral relations between the US and Russia, saying that he understands why they lack improvement despite US President Donald Trump’s election promise to change the situation.

    "Unfortunately, [Trump] hasn't fulfilled this promise. But we don't blame him for that, because we see what's happening in the domestic political life in the US. The internal political agenda in the US prevents the president from taking steps to shift the tide in Russia-US relations for the better", Putin said.

    The Russian president also expressed hope that there will be no new cold war in relations with western states, but added that even if one takes place, Russia won't be drawn into another costly arms race. He elaborated that this had become possible due to the Russian military’s focus on developing perspective technologies and weaponry, which no other country has at its disposal at the moment. Putin also noted that despite NATO's best efforts, the alliance had failed to neutralise Russia’s nuclear potential, partly due to the country's latest breakthroughs in military technologies.

    Russia's relations with the US have been in a downward spiral since Washington accused Moscow in 2014 of meddling in Ukraine's domestic affairs. The trend only strengthened after members of the Democratic Party and intelligence community accused Russia of interfering in the 2016 presidential elections, won by Republican candidate Donald Trump.

    The latter has since faced so far unfounded accusations of conspiring with Russia in order to win the presidential post and just recently of trying to force the Ukrainian president to start an investigation into his likely 2020 Democrat opponent – Joe Biden. Trump himself has slammed the numerous investigations, probes, and recent impeachment efforts, mostly organised and led by Democrats, as "unprecedented presidential harassment" and a "witch hunt".


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    US-Russia relations, oil tanker, new Cold War, Cold War, Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia, Vladimir Putin, Israel, Iran, US
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