G-7 Nations Say Russia Too Early on Iran Air-Defense Sale

Germany and Italy said Russia’s planned sale of air-defense systems to Iran before world powers complete an agreement on the country’s nuclear program is premature.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, hosting a Group of Seven meeting on Tuesday, said Russia’s decision runs counter to the spirit of negotiators who reached a framework nuclear agreement with Iran this month. Such deals should wait until a full agreement, which is envisaged by June 30, he said.

“To talk about rewards already is too early,” Steinmeier told reporters in the German port city of Luebeck. “I would have wished that the constructiveness that we saw in Lausanne in those busy days, six days in a row, that we pursue the same energy until June 30.”

The U.S. and Israel assailed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision Monday to lift a self-imposed 2010 ban on exporting S-300 air-defense systems. Russia’s overture to Iran could rattle U.S. President Barack Obama’s efforts to win domestic backing for the Iran framework agreement.

Secretary of State John Kerry skipped the first day of the G-7 talks to stay in Washington and lobby Congress for the deal with Iran. Steinmeier compared the Kremlin’s move to the disruptive effect of a letter by 47 U.S. Republican senators last month that warned Iran any deal could be scrapped by Obama’s successor.

“We’re in the middle of a process,” Steinmeier said. “That’s what I signaled to a number of U.S. senators -- not to try to unnecessarily disrupt further negotiations.”

Italy Ready

Steinmeier criticized the letter on March 12 during a trip to Washington as “not helpful,” drawing the ire of Republican Senator John McCain, who accused the top German envoy of belonging to the “Neville Chamberlain school of diplomacy.”

The Kremlin says the system poses no threat in the Middle East and has maintained its right to follow through on the $800 million contract, which Russia says doesn’t breach the arms embargo on Iran because it’s a defensive weapon.

Steinmeier and Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said any boost from renewed commercial relations must wait.

“When at the end of June there is a complete accord, Italy will be one of the countries in there trying to reestablish commercial relations,” Gentiloni told reporters in Luebeck. “But first we need the accord, we shouldn’t be getting ahead of ourselves.”

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