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Iran, Russia to Finalize Draft on Strategic Cooperation Deal

By Nigar Bayramli March 31, 2023

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian at a press conference in Moscow, on March 29, 2023. / MFA.gov.ir

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on March 29 said he hoped to finalize the draft of the comprehensive strategic cooperation agreement between Tehran and Moscow by next month.

"I am very grateful that the draft of a comprehensive agreement on strategic partnership between our countries has been reviewed and finalized in Russia," he said at a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, according to TASS.

"I sincerely hope that within the next month, the legal departments of our countries’ foreign ministries will finalize the draft of this agreement," Amir-Abdollahian said.

"I would like to point out that we are, of course, in the final stages before signing this agreement," he added.

During the meeting, Lavrov said: "We cooperate closely on international and regional affairs, and all of those issues are on the agenda for today’s talks."

He added that Russia and Iran are boosting the exchange of region-based delegations among businesspeople, and such exchanges promote higher trade turnover between the countries.

The Iranian Foreign Minister, meanwhile, reiterated Tehran's opposition to any geopolitical changes in the Caucasus region, and warned Baku and Yerevan that engaging in a conflict would not benefit them.

Any attempts to alter the region's geopolitics would only "further complicate the situation," Amir-Abdollahian said.

On the subject, Lavrov said that he hoped that “the current differences in the Baku-Tehran relations are temporary and the sides will settle them as soon as possible".

End of such frictions will help the trilateral cooperation of Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan to make progress, including in the context of "the implementation of important projects as part of the development of the North-South international transport corridor."

The Iranian-Russian relations have grown significantly closer following the latter's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and after Moscow was hit by Western sanctions. Iran said it supplied Russia with a "limited number of drones" months before the war in Ukraine, but it rejected assertions that its drones are being used to target Ukrainian infrastructure.

The Ukrainian Resistance Center reported on March 29 that Iranian Pouya Air Transport resumed regular flights between Tehran and Moscow on March 13 likely to support weapons transfers. As part of the military cooperation, Iran has finalized a contract for acquisition of Russian Sukhoi-35 (Su-35) fighter jets to renew its ageing fleet of warplanes.

On March 27, the Wall Street Journal reported that Russia was helping Iran gain advanced digital surveillance capabilities as Tehran seeks deeper cooperation on cyber warfare. When asked about the report, the Iranian Foreign Minister said that "defense cooperation is one of the topics on the joint agenda of Tehran and Moscow."

"Our cooperation will not be against any sides," he added.

Moscow also supplies Tehran with the nuclear fuel needed to operate Bushehr's first reactor. The latest delivery of Russian fuel was in April 2020. The first power unit of the nuclear plant was connected to Iran's national power grid in September 2011. The construction of the second unit is underway and a contract has been signed for Russia to also build the third section.

In an interview with Russia’s RIA Novosti on March 21, Iranian Economy Minister Ehsan Khandouzi said that "the prospect of cooperation in the field of 'new energy' and renewable energy sources, as well as in the field of other types of energy, including peaceful nuclear energy, certainly causes great interest and motivation for expanding economic relations with Russia".