Tuesday, 25 September, 2018

Four reasons why Iran-Russia alliance is stronger than ever

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By Vahid Jafarian, Editorial Board Member

Arabic and Western media these days are trying to pretend that Iran and Russia have sharp differences over regional issues including the matters related to Syria crisis, but recent developments suggest that the relationship between the two countries is stronger than ever.

What are the reasons for this claim?

Firstly, Contrary to recent propaganda, Russia and Iran are obviously strong allies in Syria. Tehran and Moscow has been longtime backer of Bashar Assad throughout the five-year Syrian war.

Over the years, Iran and Russian have had intensive consultations over the fate of Syrian war and in the last round of talks, the foreign and defence ministers from two countries alongside Turkey met in Moscow on Tuesday, while Secretary of State John Kerry was not invited.

Following the meeting with his Turkish and Iranian counterparts, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia, Iran and Turkey have agreed to support efforts to produce a peace deal between President Assad and his opposition.

The meeting came one day after Russian Ambassador to Ankara Andrey Karlov was assassinated at an art exhibition in the capital by a policeman.

“Turkish-Russian-Iranian cooperation ensures the evacuation of civilians and armed groups from eastern Aleppo,” said Lavrov.

Lavrov also praised the Turkey-Iran-Russia format on Syria as the “most effective” and added that the three have “confirmed their readiness to fight the Islamic State group and al-Nusra front and to separate them from the groups of armed opposition.” “Our cooperation has already allowed not just the evacuation of civilians but also an organised moving out of most of the fighters of the armed opposition along agreed routes,” Lavrov said.

Secondly, Russia wants to induce Iran into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization which would go a long way towards breaking Tehran’s international isolation.

On October 29, Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin said that there are no obstacles to Iran becoming a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) after its nuclear issue was resolved.

“We consider there are no obstacles left for a positive consideration of its [Iran’s] membership application after the resolution of the situation on Iran’s nuclear program and lifting of the UN sanctions,” Churkin said.

Since 2008, according to Sputnik news, Russia has been advocating the idea of Iran’s SCO membership, but the process had been complicated by the sanctions regime against Tehran, which has been lifted recently.

Thirdly, there is the equally important economic aspect. The two nations have cultivated a number of commercial links, whether it is Iranians exporting fish and vegetables or Russians selling arms and technology.

A Russian delegation to Tehran signed nine agreements in industries ranging from energy to railways. Gazprom reached an unspecified accord with Iran’s state natural gas company, and its subsidiary, Gazprom Neft PJSC, signed a deal to study the Cheshmeh-Khosh and Changuleh oil fields. State-run Gazprom is the third Russian energy company to sign a memorandum of understanding with Iran, joining Lukoil PJSC and Zarubezhneft OAO.

“Our priority is to develop Iran’s big projects,” Novak said at one of several signing ceremonies on Tuesday. “These agreements will have a significant influence on the relationship between our two countries.”

Russia also signed agreements to develop the Bandar Abbas power station on the southern Iranian coast and to electrify a railway in the country’s northeast, Iran’s Information and Communications Technology Minister Mahmoud Vaezi said. Together with other agreements in trade, finance, industry, mining and agriculture, the preliminary deals could lead to final contracts with a total value of $10 billion, he said.

Finally, the two countries are powering on with the scheme to use their national currencies rather than the dollar in their mutual trade:

Vaezi [Iranian minister and chair of the Russia-Iran Trade Comission] said both sides have reached an agreement on the simultaneous opening of branches of their local banks in Iran and Russia to remove the obstacles faced in bilateral trade. Highlighting that the said talks between Iran and Russia focused primarily on the use of local currency in mutual trade,

Vaezi said Iran and Russia have agreed to use rials and rubles, respectively, rather than U.S. dollars in bilateral trade, pointing out that negotiations between both the Russian and Iranian central banks will commence soon.

What this means is that the two countries are insulating their expanding economic relationship from the effects of sanctions, particularly any increased sanctions Trump administration may have in store for Tehran.

Russia-insider contributed to this report

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