MOSCOW, Aug 23 (PRIME) – Moscow and Tehran seek closer energy cooperation and are already working in this direction, Russian Ambassador to Iran Levan Dzhagaryan told PRIME in an interview published on Monday.
“Energy cooperation between Russia and Iran is a success. There is solid potential for further deepening of our ties. The relevant ministries and companies of the two countries are looking into expanding Russia’s involvement,” the ambassador said.
Russia is in contact with Iran on a whole range of bilateral and international issues, including energy, Dzhagaryan noted.
“In July, a meeting of the OPEC+ monitoring committee took place. Russia highly appreciated Iran's position on supporting extension of the deal. The Islamic Republic is one of the key members of the organization of oil exporting countries. It seems that OPEC understands the importance of discussing and agreeing on further steps within the cartel after the lifting of the U.S. sanctions against Iran,” the diplomat added.
Iran has been under U.S. trade and economic sanctions for 40 years. The situation worsened in 2005-2013, when Iran began to develop its nuclear program fully, and the U.S. and the international community introduced new sanctions against Iran's financial sector, exports of energy resources, and arms. As a result, the Iranian economy was on the verge of collapse.
Relations began to thaw under President Hassan Rouhani. In 2015, Britain, Germany, China, Russia, the U.S., France and Iran signed a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Iran limited its nuclear program and sanctions were lifted. But in May 2018, the U.S. pulled out of the deal and reinstated tough sanctions against Iran. In response, Tehran announced a gradual reduction of its commitments under the agreement.
The sixth round of talks on restoring the JCPOA and lifting U.S. sanctions on Iran was held in Vienna on June 20. Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia's permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna, said that the work on restoring the deal was almost 90% complete, although there were still political issues related to the U.S. obligations and how Washington would comply with them in the future. Iran said that the new government, which was formed after the inauguration of President-elect Ibrahim Raisi on August 5, would continue the negotiations.
“Unfortunately, we are yet to reach an agreement on what to do with Iran’s Bushehr NPP debt,” the ambassador said, referring to the $500 million Iran owes Russia for the works.
“The main reason behind the debt is the illegal unilateral U.S. sanctions, since Tehran is unable to access its funds on foreign bank accounts, primarily in South Korea and Japan. Nevertheless, the Bushehr nuclear power plant continues to work as usual,” the diplomat added.
The construction of Bushehr power units is the largest Russian-Iranian project. The first unit of the nuclear power plant, completed with Russia’s help, was connected to Iran’s national power grid in 2011.
Russia supplies Iran with the nuclear fuel it needs to operate its Unit 1 reactor. The Russian embassy in Iran last reported on the delivery of a fresh batch of fuel to Iran in April 2020.