Russia and Iran on the way to strategic partnership

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Russia and Iran on the way to strategic partnership 14.04.2017 17:38

 

The official visit of the Iranian President to Moscow on March 27-28 became unique for more than 500 years of our diplomatic relations. Never before the positions of Iran and Russia have been so close on the most pressing international issues, as it is today.

In this sense, the role of the last two-day visit of the Iranian delegation to Moscow cannot be overestimated. It was during this trip that the representative delegation of Iran led by its president made a road to the strategic partnership of the two countries on the present "road map" which was outlined in the program statement following the talks between the presidents of Russia and Iran - Vladimir Putin and Hasan Rouhani. It reflects almost all areas of bilateral, regional and international cooperation, trade and economic partnership, scientific and humanitarian exchange. 16 agreements were signed.

The two-day talks were very busy. Hassan Rouhani met with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, held intensive talks with President Vladimir Putin. This was the ninth personal meeting of the two presidents, but the first official state visit of President Rouhani to Moscow.

Russia and Iran have a common threat - international terrorism

Certainly, the settlement in Syria has become one of the central topics of discussions. In a joint statement following the talks, Presidents Vladimir Putin and Hasan Rouhani confirmed that Moscow and Tehran are in favor of settling the conflict in Syria through political and diplomatic means, while expressing firm support for Damascus' efforts to fight terrorists. "Russia and Iran, respecting the independence, unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic, and also on the basis of a principled position on the non-alternative solution of the Syrian problem by peaceful means, spoke in favor of a politico-diplomatic settlement of the conflict in Syria on the basis of the principles set forth in Council Resolution 2254 Security of the United Nations", the document says.

At the same time, Putin and Rouhani expressed "strong support" for the efforts "made for six years by the Syrian authorities, the army and the people's militia aimed at combating terrorism through the Islamic state (the grouping is banned in the territory of the Russian Federation), Jebhat an Nusra and other groups affiliated with them".

Both leaders particularly noted the successes of the diplomatic efforts of Russia, Iran and Turkey in the trilateral format that has led to the beginning of the inter-Syrian dialogue in Kazakhstan's Astana and "provided an opportunity to establish an effective and sustainable ceasefire in Syria".

"The participation of Russia and Iran along with Turkey as guarantor countries in the negotiations in Astana between the representatives of the armed opposition and the Syrian government is an important contribution to the further advancement of the peaceful political settlement in Syria, promotes the inter-Syrian negotiations and the corresponding process under the auspices of the UN in Geneva,” Vladimir Putin said after talks with Hasan Rouhani.

Moreover, both the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic are open to wider cooperation in the fight against the terrorist threat. The sides spoke in favor of creating a broad international coalition to combat terrorism, "which would act on the basis of international law, primarily the UN Charter, respecting the sovereignty of states directly affected by terrorist attacks, without double standards", the final statement states.

By the way, until now, after all, there is no common definition of terrorism recognized in international legal documents. In this sense, the wording of the bilateral Moscow communique can be adopted: "... the use of terrorist and extremist groups as instruments for the realization of political and geopolitical purposes is unacceptable." And further: "... terrorism has no relation to any culture, religion or nationality and any attempts To connect it with these concepts should be stopped".

Third countries may not worry

Another qualitatively important point in our relations with Iran is that we "are not friends with anyone" and do not seek to create military and political blocs directed against third countries, although this and other countries have such a historical experience. Here you can recall the Baghdad Pact (1955-1959) actually created for the confrontation with the USSR and the military unit CENTO (1959-1979), which included Tehran.

In the final communique, the presidents of Russia and Iran spoke in favor of a world order based on international law, primarily on the UN Charter. "The interaction between Russia and Iran is aimed at strengthening the central coordinating role of the United Nations in ensuring peace, security and sustainable development, to further enhance the effectiveness of its activities", the statement said.

It should be noted that during the bilateral dialogue "the Russian side particularly confirmed the continued support for the application of the Islamic Republic of Iran to obtain the status of a member state of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and spoke in favor of an expeditious consideration of this application in due course." This is emphasized in the joint statement of the two leaders following the talks in Moscow. The fact is that since 2005 Iran has been an observer country in the organization created in Shanghai in June 2001 by six countries - Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Russia has always supported Iran's desire to become a full member of the SCO, but this was hampered by international sanctions against the Iranian nuclear program, imposed on the basis of the resolutions of the UN Security Council. International sanctions were lifted in early 2016 with the start of the implementation of the nuclear deal - the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan (CAPA), adopted by Iran and the Six (five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany).

The presidents of the two countries stressed that Iran's participation in the SCO and other multilateral formats contributes to strengthening Russian-Iranian cooperation in order to consolidate peace and stability in Central Asia and the Caucasus.

EAEU Free Trade Zone-Iran

One of the other important results of the visit was that Presidents Putin and Rouhani in the joint final communique "welcomed the early completion of the work on the preparation for signing of an interim agreement between the EAEU member states and the Islamic Republic of Iran leading to the formation of a free trade zone."

The start of negotiations on the formation of the regime of trade preferences with Iran and a number of other states was given in St. Petersburg in December 2016 at a summit of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) with the participation of the presidents of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia (the president of Belarus, also included in the Union, then did not participate in the summit).

It is clear that the path to the creation of a free trade zone (FTZ), which implies the duty-free movement of goods and services across the borders of its member states, is not close. This is evidenced by the experience of the formation of the Common Market in Europe, which became the basis for economic integration of the European Union, and the experience of the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA). And the participants of the Eurasian Economic Union itself are still very far from consensus.

Here the experts of the Eurasian association and Iran will have to work hard to work out the nomenclature of goods that can be included in the preferential list. There are more questions than answers. So, for example, a complete cancellation of import duties on imported agricultural products can damage producers in the importing country, which may not withstand competition with suppliers of cheaper products. And the protection of domestic farmers is tightly linked to the problem of food security of any country.

At the same time, the integration of Iran into the Eurasian Economic Community looks quite logical and has all chances to become an effective measure to stimulate trade and economic exchanges between the participating states. One should not forget about the important political aspect, at first glance, purely commercial rapprochement.

"We discussed the formation of a free trade zone between Iran and the EAEU member countries, which could also help expand the trade of the EAEU member states and Iran and create new conditions in regional trade," President of the Haslam Hasan Rouhani after talks with the Russian president.

It should be noted that the desire of Iran to get closer to the Eurasian Economic Community is quite understandable. After all, the Islamic Republic, with the onset of the FTA, gets duty-free access to the market with more than 180 million consumers in countries with a combined GDP of $1.66 trillion (according to the World Bank for 2016), industrial production of about $900 billion a year and The volume of mutual trade more than $45 billion (2015).

But the EAEU states will in exchange receive preferences on the prospective Iranian market with the number of consumers under 80 million, growing incomes of the population and total GDP of $425.326 billion dollars (according to the World Bank for 2014)

In addition, the concept of EAEU is perfectly correlated with Iran's strategic goal of becoming the largest regional transit hub in the North-South transport corridor. This will allow Tehran to solve one of the most important economic tasks set by the current leadership. This means reducing the country's dependence on oil revenues (the share of revenues from oil exports in the revenue part of the Iranian budget is constantly declining over the past four years and amounted to 25% in March) due to the growth of other industries. This will happen, including through the expansion of transit and the development of transport infrastructure in the direction from Europe and Central Asia to the ports in the Persian Gulf and vice versa.

Even after his return to Tehran, summing up his visit to Moscow, the Iranian president stressed: "Cooperation in the field of goods transit is no less important for us. Our countries are making efforts to launch the South-North transport corridor, which connects the Persian and Oman Gulfs with Eastern and Northern Europe. The transit route Bender-Abbas-Moscow is of great importance for us".

The status of the Caspian Sea should guarantee peace and security for the region

An important issue for the two countries on the Caspian Sea was also reflected in the joint communique adopted. The five coastal states have not yet come to an agreement on the status of this sea. And from its formulations depend on such important issues as security and guarantee of peace in the Caspian Sea. Following the talks in Moscow, Russian and Iranian leaders spoke in favor of further expanding all-round cooperation in the Caspian Sea. Cooperation.. Including in the sphere of creating guarantees for peace, stability and security in the region, safety of navigation, transit and transport, sustainable development, environmental protection, protection and management of aquatic biological resources, oil pollution counteraction, as well as in trade, tourism and marine scientific Research.

Bilateral trade and economic cooperation

The big block in the subject of negotiations is issues of bilateral trade and economic cooperation in the field of energy, including nuclear, oil, gas, railway construction, aircraft construction and trade in agricultural products.

According to the Federal Customs Service of the Russian Federation, the volume of Russian-Iranian trade turnover in 2016 increased by more than 70% and amounted to more than $2.18 billion. At the same time, Russian exports grew by 85% - to 1.88 billion dollars, imports - by 13% to over $300 million.

Such a significant increase in turnover is very optimistic. However, the potential of our mutual trade, according to experts, is five times higher than the current level. In addition, everything is known in comparison: so the annual trade turnover between Iran and China exceeds $50 billion, and with Turkey, with Iran, to put it mildly, not the most brilliant relationship, mutual trade in 2015 was estimated at $9.76 billion.

Of course, in the slow build-up of mutual trade there are also serious objective factors. For example, food in Iran is very high quality. But with their import from Iran, businessmen faced a structural problem. The fact is that in the Islamic Republic there are practically no network food stores. In Tehran, for example, there are only a few large supermarkets. There is more developed trade through small family stores, located within walking distance. Hence, a kind of logistics, designed for small wholesale supplies - there is no need for large refrigerators, storage facilities, transshipment bases, heavy trucks. Our large networks are interested in importing Iranian products, which cannot exist in the bases of large storage facilities, bases and fleet of trailers. Therefore, in order to establish regular volumetric supplies, it is necessary to build the entire logistic chain in Iran from scratch. And this is not fast and costly.

There is another important area discussed by the Presidents of Russia and Iran, Vladimir Putin and Hasan Rouhani. They stressed the importance of the fulfillment by all parties of their obligations under the Agreement on the Iranian Nuclear Program - the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between Iran and six countries - international mediators. Russia, in particular, has committed to modify two cascades of gas centrifuges at an Iranian enterprise in Fordo to produce stable isotopes and is now preparing project documentation. It should be noted that the first block of the Bushehr NPP, built by Russia, functions steadily and generates electricity for the Iranian economy. The documents are being coordinated for the construction of the second and third power units of this nuclear power plant in the south of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

At the same time, we have to state that while Russian oil and gas companies still have not returned to the Iranian market after the lifting of sanctions, although the largest of them have their representative offices in Tehran for a long time. Here, to a significant extent, the imperfection of the Iranian oil legislation is already a brake. "Russian companies are offered a number of oil fields and gas," Iranian President Hasan Rouhani said before his flight to Moscow, stressing that there is an impressive potential for Russian investments in Iran's energy sector. Earlier, Iran announced that it was bidding 52 foreign oil and gas fields for sale to foreign partners, as well as 18 exploration blocks. In the list of 29 foreign companies admitted to the tender, Russian Gazprom and Lukoil.

According to the same company Lukoil in October-November 2017, the parties can sign contracts on two Iranian deposits - El-Mansuri and Ab-Teymur. The recoverable reserves of each of them are estimated at more than 1 million tons of oil. There was progress in the beginning of work on contracts for the construction of a TPP in the province of Hormozgan and the electrification of the Garmsar-Ince Burun railway section with a total length of 495 km. Also 32 stations will be electrified and 95 tunnels will be built seven traction substations and 11 sectionalization posts, six on-call points of the contact network and a power supply building. According to preliminary estimates, the project will take about three years. By the way, the export credit for a total of 2.2 billion euros under these two contracts is already undergoing the stage of registration in the bowels of Russian state structures.

Collective tourists are offered a visa-free regime

The first step was taken in the matter of abolishing visas for tourists from both countries. As a result of the talks, the parties signed an intergovernmental agreement on visa-free group travels for citizens of the Russian Federation and citizens of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In other words, tourists from Russia, traveling group to Iran, are no longer required visas. The agreement should please the Iranian tourists. After all, their flow to Russia is growing rapidly. Only in 2016 it increased by more than 70%.

Factor of presidential elections

Assessing the results of the visit of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Russian Federation, one must always take into account that on May 19, Iran will hold regular presidential elections. As expected, the head of the executive power Hasan Rouhani will nominate his candidature for a second term.

In general, the attitude of ordinary Iranians to Russia is very warm. So, the visit of the head of the Cabinet of Ministers to Moscow creates a favorable background for the presidential campaign, whose views are generally considered moderate in Iran.

With his inherent grace in rhetoric, Hasan Rouhani made it clear that he is in fact the successor to the course of cooperation with Russia that was conducted by Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani (1934-2017) - the legend of the Islamic Revolution, the former president of IRI and one of the most popular politicians in the past. Before leaving for Moscow, Rouhani stated on Iranian television: "Before the Islamic revolution (1979), Iran was dependent on the United States, which caused concern in the Soviet Union". After the victory of the revolution, a new stage in our relations came in. In 1989, I visited Moscow Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani (as president - author's comment)".

"During the visit important agreements were reached that marked the beginning of the third stage in bilateral relations. In recent years our relations have entered the fourth stage of their development, which is characterized by the proximity of the positions of the parties on a number of key international issues. The implementation of the agreement on the Iranian nuclear program Russia has provided a significant assistance to the solution of this problem, "the current president of IRI, whose name is firmly connected with the main outward appearance Political victory of the state - the conclusion of a nuclear deal that led to the lifting of sanctions.

However, in the conservative wing of the Iranian political establishment, voices are often heard against the active development of relations with Moscow, especially in the military sphere. We remember how surprising the statements of the Defense Minister of Iran, Hossein Dehgan, about the use of the Russian bomber base in Hamadan in southern Iran for refueling and further sending to Syria for air strikes against terrorists.

By the way, the fact that the representative delegation headed by Rouhani, which included almost all the leading ministers, did not disappear from the eyes of the observers, Hossein Dekhgan was absent.

Nevertheless, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who accompanied Rouhani in Moscow, hastened to reassure the negative conservatives: "Russia does not have a military base (on the territory of Iran - the author's comment), but we have a good cooperation and we will take a decision in each specific Case, if the use of Iranian facilities is required in order for the Russians to fight terrorists".

In any case, cooperation in Syria in the fight against international terrorism was the main stimulus for the further development of Russian-Iranian relations. And the past visit showed that both sides can count on bilateral, regional and international interaction in the short term. As the president of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin summed up the talks, they were "thorough and effective".

 

Alexander Levchenko

 

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