Russia warned the West on Friday that new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program will be seen by the world as a bid to change the Islamic republic’s regime.
Moscow also said it strongly disagreed with the West’s approach to its other regional ally Syria and would use its position in the U.N. Security Council to avert foreign military intervention in both crises.
“Additional sanctions against Iran ... will unquestionably be perceived by the international community as an attempt at changing the regime in Iran,” Deputy Foreign Minister Gannady Gatilov was quoted as saying by Intefax.
His comments came as European governments moved closer to an agreement on an Iranian oil embargo that would give companies six months to phase out contracts with Tehran.
Russia has backed four rounds of U.N. Security Council sanctions against its close trading partner and this week expressed “regret and worry” at Tehran’s decision to begin uranium enrichment at a new nuclear plant.
But it has urged restraint in the current escalation and is still promoting a peace plan that rewards Iran for cooperating with foreign inspectors by gradually easing existing sanctions.
Gatilov argued that crippling punishment would only inflame conflict and hinted at Moscow’s willingness to veto any such future attempts at the Security Council.
“The adoption by Western states of unilateral measures that go outside the frameworks of Security Council decisions have a negative effect on the Iranian people and its economy,” the Russian diplomat said.
“This line of action undermines the international community’s efforts at resolving the Iranian nuclear problem,” he said.
The twin crises have highlighted the trouble the West has been facing from Moscow despite a “reset” in relations announced nearly three years ago by Washington.
The Syrian crisis has seen Russia accuse the West of setting double standards by turning a blind eye on the violence being committed by opponents of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Gatilov on Friday again flatly rebuffed changes to its Council resolution on the 10-month crackdown being promoted by Western states.
“Unfortunately, the West’s approach radically differs from ours,” said Gatilov.
“Judging by the contents of their proposed amendments, their goal is clearly aimed at removing al-Assad’s regime in Damascus,” he said.
Russia and China vetoed a European resolution on Syria in October but Moscow surprised the Security Council two months later by proposing its own resolution condemning violence by both the government and opposition.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week accused Russia of refusing to negotiate changes to its draft that would also suit the West.
The Russian diplomat said Moscow would hold a new round of consultation over its draft in the coming days.
But he also added that Russia fully trusted the much-criticised mission being undertaken in Syria by Arab League monitors.
“We feel their presence is a stabilising factor in Syria that promotes the chances of a peaceful settlement,” he said.