May 29, 2023

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Russia’s Iran Envoy to Sputnik: Moscow-Tehran Relations ‘Have Acquired a Strategic Character’

The ambassador, who presented his credentials in Tehran last September, discussed Iran-Russia relations on a number of topics, but especially the importance of trade as the two nations face down a tsunami of Western sanctions.The Special Military Operation in UkraineDedov said the relationship between the two nations has continued on its steady upward course despite Western attempts to drive a wedge between the Russian Federation and its international partners since the beginning of the special operation in Ukraine in February 2022.“And the [special military operation] is perceived in Iran quite reasonably and balanced. Absolutely the majority, the public and the mass media are well aware that this was a necessity. This was a forced measure in response to the desire of NATO and the United States, which is at the head of this organization, to develop the influence of the alliance, to spread it eastward. In particular, at the NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008, a decision was made to integrate Ukraine and Georgia into NATO,” he said.“Russia tried to resolve this issue with NATO in some reasonable, peaceful way. You probably remember, and in Iran they remember and know, that at the end of 2022 we proposed to the US and NATO to conclude agreements on mutual security guarantees,” Dedov said.“But the other side simply did not want to listen to us. As for Ukraine, we have repeatedly voiced our readiness to solve problems peacefully, taking into account the existing realities. But Ukraine also did not want to listen to us, because the Kiev regime unsuccessfully and irresponsibly hopes to win a military victory over Russia with the help of the West.”Cooperating in the Caspian SeaDedov noted that even 15 years ago, when he first became involved in Russian diplomatic affairs in Iran, “relations between the two countries were very constructive, I would even say very cordial.”Sputnik also spoke with Dedov about the Aktau convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea, a 2018 agreement signed by the five Caspian Sea powers that only Tehran has so far refused to ratify, due to lasting concerns about the division of undersea natural resources in the inland waterway.“When this document enters into force, the legal basis for our full cooperation in the Caspian Sea will be laid. And so, of course, consultations on this issue are constantly underway, meetings of the five-sided high-level working group are being held. The last such meeting took place quite recently, in December last year. But the most important thing is that the five countries are unanimous in that a non-regional presence in the Caspian should not be allowed, especially if this presence would be of a military nature,” Dedov said.In addition to governing how the five nations divide up the Caspian Sea’s fishing and hydrocarbon resources, the agreement also stipulates that no other nations can deploy military forces in the waterway – an important consideration as the NATO alliance seeks to court some regional states, especially Azerbaijan.Completing the INSTC“As for specific projects in which the Caspian countries are involved: this is, of course, the ‘International North-South Transport Corridor’. There is an operational eastern railway line that runs from Iran through Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan to Russia. Work is currently underway to close the western branch,” Dedov noted.“Therefore, this project [Rasht-Astara railway] is of great importance, as it will enable uninterrupted transportation of goods from the port of Ust-Luga, which is located near St. Petersburg [Russia] to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. This is perhaps the most important and leading project that five countries are implementing in the Caspian,” Dedov said.Growing Russia-Iran TradeThe ambassador described Russia-Iran trade as growing at “quite a dynamic pace,” noting trade turnover grew by 40% in 2021 and by 20% in 2022, reaching nearly $5 billion. Indeed, Javad Ouji, Iran’s oil minister and co-chair of a joint intergovernmental commission on trade and cooperation between Iran and Russia, recently proposed the aspirational target of $40 billion in trade turnover.The ambassador noted that 78 Russian federal subjects – that is, Russia’s top-level political divisions – engage in trade with Iran. He noted special coordination between the heads of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and Iran in recent months, and that the relationships go beyond simple commodity trading to include tourism and even friendly soccer matches.Nuclear Power and SanctionsAnother field of cooperation is on nuclear power. Russia’s Atomstroyexport helped complete the nuclear power station at Bushehr and maintain it, especially during the period of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal, when the Western powers did not object to its functioning, and the first reactor was brought online.“Now the flagship project in this area is the construction of the second and third units of this nuclear power plant, which is being carried out in accordance with the agreed schedule. In particular, last year, preparatory work was carried out for the construction of the main pumping stations, strengthening of groundwater, the construction of auxiliary buildings of both units, and the erection of walls for the reactor compartment of the second unit,” he said.Now, however, the US has unilaterally brought back sanctions against Iran by pulling out of the JCPOA based on unproven claims Tehran is secretly pursuing a nuclear weapon. Russia and the other JCPOA signatories were unconvinced by US claims and have continued observing the deal, except where US sanctions have intimidated them into halting. And more recently, the US has imposed punishing economic sanctions on Russia as well, designed to scare other nations into also cutting economic ties with them.Dedov quipped Russia had become the “champion” of sanctions over Iran, because the West has imposed some 15,000 sanctions against Moscow, while it has just 8,000 against Tehran.“Such US sanctions are considered illegal both in Iran and in our country. But if more sanctions are added in this area, in fact, this will not significantly affect our cooperation with Iran, including in the nuclear sphere.”Original News :

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