Russia believes that Israel's security interests are best safeguarded by maintaining the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers, even if Israel doesn't believe so itself, the head of the Russian delegation to the Vienna nuclear talks told i24NEWS in an interview on Monday.

"We have good relations with the state of Israel and we respect their concerns — at the same time our assessment of the role the JCPOA has to play is different than that of the state of Israel," Russian nuclear negotiator Mikhail Ulyanov told the network, referring to the nuclear deal by its formal appellation, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

"We believe that the nuclear deal is extremely valuable, that it should be maintained and it will correspond with the security interests of all states in the world and in the Middle East region," Ulyanov said.

"I would say that for sure the nuclear deal is the best guarantee available that Iran doesn’t acquire nuclear weapons, the best guarantee!" he asserted.

The Russian official had harsh words for the policies on Iran of the previous US administration, headed by former President Donald Trump. Iran has gradually scaled back its compliance with the 2015 deal in response to Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement in May of 2018.

"All other ways and means are futile and you can see for yourself. The maximum policy pressure of the US just lead to significant advancement of the Iranian nuclear program. It is absolutely counterproductive but we can reach positive results through diplomatic negotiations and restoration of the JCPOA. It will fully respond to the security interest of Israel in our view," Ulyanov told i24NEWS.

Asked whether the blackout at the Natanz nuclear facility — which Iran blamed on Israel — caused consternation at the negotiating table in Vienna, Ulyanov said that "to an extent we had tough discussions with the joint commission of the JCPOA in the beginning of this month , but then we decided with the other participants to focus on the main task, which is to restore the full implementation of the JCPOA and we made some progress in this direction."

He added that "as far as I know the fact that Israel was involved in this kind of acts of sabotage wasn’t established and I will not speculate on this. As a matter of principle we believe that such kind of acts are counterproductive and risky."

The recent talks in Vienna have involved diplomats from Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran and Russia who met the Iranian representatives, while US diplomats participated indirectly in the talks from a nearby hotel.

The US and European Union both said last week that more work was needed to revive the 2015 deal, while Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the "negotiations have achieved 60-70 percent progress."

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