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Iran, Russia's Tatarstan Discuss Expansion of Ties

By Nigar Bayramli February 18, 2024


Russia's Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov met with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran on February 14, 2024. / IRNA news agency

Iran is seeking to boost bilateral economic relations with Russia's Republic of Tatarstan, exploring business and investment opportunities as Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov met with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran.

Raisi noted that Minnikhanov was not only a leader of one of Russia's regions, but he was also appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin as the head of the Russia-Islamic World Strategic Vision Group, Tatar-Inform news agency reported on February 14.

"Thus, you represent all the Muslims of Russia in relations with other countries. In this direction, we are ready to work closely," the Iranian President said.

Raisi also noted Iran's interest in expanding cooperation with Russian regions, including Tatarstan.

Minnikhanov thanked Raisi for his personal attention to developing relations with Tatarstan, adding that they discussed advancing ties in the automotive industry, medicine, and tourism.

The two leaders also discussed the continuing Israel-Gaza war, which the Iranian President said showed "the current unjust global order" and called for it to be replaced.

During his two-day visit to Iran, Minnikhanov also discussed Iran-Russia economic cooperation with Iranian Economy Minister Ehsan Khandouzi.

The head of Tatarstan said in a meeting with Iranian Industry Minister Abbas Aliabadi that "over the years, Tatarstan companies implemented projects in Iran. Today, we are developing cooperation with Daric, a partner of the auto giant KAMAZ. There is a significant interest in developing projects in the energy sector with Mapna, as well as in the automotive industry with Iran's largest manufacturer, Iran Khodro".

He noted that Tatarstan is also interested in exporting helicopters, cargo and passenger vessels, petrochemical products and mineral fertilisers, oil and gas extraction equipment and compressors, refrigeration equipment, food and agricultural goods and medical and pharmaceutical products to Iran.

In turn, Aliabadi expressed Iran's interest in Russian-made aircraft and medical helicopters.

The trade turnover between Tatarstan and Iran during the first nine months of 2023 increased by 1.5 times compared to the same period of the previous year, reaching $162 million. In 2023, Iran opened a branch of Mir Business Bank in Tatarstan, which is a subsidiary of Bank Melli Iran.

At a meeting with the head of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), Mohsen Khojastehmehr, Minnikhanov discussed prospects of the international North-South transport corridor, which is expected to connect Tatarstan's logistics centers with Iranian ports to facilitate cargo transportation to the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia.

Minnikhanov also said that the Iranian Trade Centre is planned for Tatarstan. It is envisaged as a central place to sell various Iranian-made goods in the republic and neighbouring regions.

In another meeting, Minnikhanov invited Iranian deputy foreign ministers, Ali Baqeri Kani and Mahdi Safari, to visit the 15th Russia-Islamic World: KazanForum economic event to be held in May 2024.

Previously, Minnikhanov visited Iran in September 2022 at a time when military cooperation between the two countries had become stronger following the launch of the Russian war against Ukraine.

Moscow started using several types of Iranian artillery and drones, including the Shahed-131, Shahed-136 and Mohajer-6 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from mid-2022. Russia reportedly used about 2,000 Shahed drones in Ukraine from September 2022 to September 2023. Shahed UAVs are kamikaze drones manufactured in Iran, but subsequently repainted by Russian forces and given the name Geran (Geranium).

Both Iran and Russia have denied allegations that Shahed drones are being supplied en masse to support Moscow's war in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Iran admits sending drones to Russia, but says they are not "to be used in the Ukraine war".

Meanwhile, Tehran seeks modernising its military equipment, especially its aged military air fleet, with Russian technologies. In March 2023, Iran confirmed that it had struck a deal with Russia to import Su-35 jets, and six months later, Tehran received several Russian-built Yak-130 training fighter jets.

In November 2023, Iranian First Deputy Defence Minister Mehdi Farahi said that a deal with Russia to import Mi-28 attack helicopters, Su-35 fighter jets, and Yak-130 training aircraft had been "finalised" and the process of importing the aircraft was "underway".