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“The dog barks - the caravan moves on”: about the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Russia and Iran in Moscow

Russia (, - Cooperation between Russia and Iran is natural: to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin's dictum, we can state that Moscow and Tehran, as two large neighbors, cannot but interact. At the same time, against the backdrop of current geopolitical processes, this cooperation is taking on new forms. Given the eternal law of geopolitics "interests above all", Russian-Iranian relations should not be viewed through any one prism.

With the start of a special military operation (SVO) in Ukraine, the leaders of Russia and Iran, Vladimir Putin and Ibrahim Raisi, along with telephone conversations, held 2 meetings: in June on the sidelines of the Caspian summit in Ashgabat and in July in Tehran during the Astana format summit with participation of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov noted, relations with Iran "are reaching a new qualitative level", which will be recorded in a "big interstate agreement", work on which is in the final stage.

No less important is the agreement on long-term cooperation between the two countries in the field of economy. For Moscow, Tehran, forced to live under sanctions since 1979, represents a valuable experience in terms of circumventing and neutralizing them. It is symptomatic that our countries are demonstrating record growth rates of trade turnover: in the first 7 months of this year, its growth amounted to more than 40%, reaching about $ 2.7 billion. By the end of 2022, a meeting of the Russian-Iranian intergovernmental commission is to be held in Moscow.

As the head of Russian diplomacy noted during a press conference with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir Abdollahian, held on August 31 in Moscow, the parties also came close to concluding a permanent free trade agreement between Iran and the EAEU to replace the temporary agreement from 2018. However, among the members of the EAEU, Iran has a land border only with Armenia; theoretically, communication can be provided through Kazakhstan along the Caspian Sea. Another option is Azerbaijan, which is also a member of one of the routes of the North-South transport corridor linking Russia with Iran and India. This issue may become one of the sensitive topics in Russian-Iranian relations.

Azerbaijan acts as an ally of Turkey, consistent harmonization of legislation is being carried out, closer integration in the line of public services, joint military exercises of various branches of the military, etc. An allied declaration was also signed between Russia and Azerbaijan in 2022. Despite official statements from both sides, Baku and Tehran face a considerable number of contradictions. It is indicative that for several years the railway section of Resht-Astara, for the construction of which the Azerbaijani side allocated a loan to Tehran, de facto did not work. Today, Moscow needs to rebuild supply chains, the basis of which can and should be the North-South, as well as communication with Turkey and Azerbaijan while unblocking communications in the South Caucasus. On this issue, rather unusual statements by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Khamenei at meetings with Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan went unnoticed: despite the fact that the summit was officially dedicated to the Syrian settlement, Khamenei pointed out the impossibility of alienating or blocking the Iranian-Armenian border.

During the joint press conference of the two ministers, the parties also stated their rejection of the attempts of the collective West to replace international law with a "rules-based order". At the same time, it is noteworthy that Tehran has been engaged in lengthy indirect negotiations with the United States through the European Union to revive the nuclear deal. Given the EU's refusal to supply Russian energy, Iranian hydrocarbons could theoretically become one of the alternatives for European buyers. However, it should be noted that Iran will not be able to “flood” the market with oil and gas immediately. Sergey Lavrov noted that Moscow supports the Iranian position in the negotiations, and Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia's permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna, pointed out that Iran's proposals on the text of the deal are acceptable.

Iran's membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is also interesting. The head of Russian diplomacy stated that Moscow is closely following the process of Tehran's accession to the organization. As expected, a memorandum on Iran's full membership in this organization will be signed at the SCO summit in Samarkand in September. Given Tehran's constructive relations with both Moscow and Beijing, such a move could somewhat balance China's powerful political and economic weight in the SCO.The foreign ministers of the two countries could not ignore regional issues either. Despite the statements of officials that Russia is not leaving Syria against the backdrop of the NMD, the Ukrainian "military-political" theater has become the most relevant and important today. Undoubtedly, it is impossible to say that Moscow is leaving Syria, although, for example, King Abdullah II of Jordan expressed his concern about the possibility of a “vacuum” in southern Syria that would be filled by Iranian forces. In this context, despite close cooperation with Turkey, which is being established in parallel with contradictions, Tehran, on the one hand, becomes the most important partner in the Syrian issue, and on the other, it can strengthen its position to the detriment of Russia.

Sergei Lavrov stressed that during the talks with Hossein Amir Abdollahian, issues related to the Middle East settlement (taking into account the protection of the rights and interests of the Palestinian people), Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan, Transcaucasia and the Caspian were also touched upon. As for the Ukrainian story, Lavrov stated that Tehran understands Moscow's security concerns and the reasons that led to such a development of events.

In turn, Hossein Amir Abdollahian said that the Iranian side conveyed the message of "one of the European leaders" through President Raisi regarding the situation in Ukraine. According to a number of analysts, this "European leader" may be French President Emmanuel Macron, who has previously criticized Erdogan's monopolization of the mediation mission in the Ukrainian issue. Such moves may be indicative of Iran's political weight, despite the latter's officially strained relationship with the US-led collective West.

Abdollahian noted that Iran shares the idea of ​​intensifying cooperation, pointing out banking, tourism and transit along with trade. Touching upon regional issues, the Iranian Foreign Minister dwelled separately on Afghanistan and Transcaucasia, noting in relation to the latter that Tehran and Moscow oppose "changes in geopolitics in the region." He also elaborated on Yemen, pointing out that the creation of an inclusive government, as in Afghanistan, coupled with the lifting of the humanitarian blockade and respect for the agreements reached by all parties, is a way out of the crisis.

In general, Hossein Amir Abdollahian dwelled in more detail on regional issues, revealing Iran's position in each of them, in contrast to his Russian counterpart, who spoke mainly about bilateral relations. It is no less interesting that the Iranian minister's rhetoric towards the West and the United States was much less "militant" compared to the head of Russian diplomacy.

The ability to synthesize and harmonize the interests and elements of competition between powers is a necessary factor in interstate relations. The East is a "delicate matter", and Iranian diplomacy and politics are traditionally one of the most sophisticated and skillful. Russia and Iran are "doomed" to cooperate and communicate. Given the powerful potential of both countries in various fields and against the backdrop of changes in the geopolitical and geo-economic configuration, Russian-Iranian cooperation will not only intensify, but will also go through some kind of stress tests.

“The dog barks - the caravan moves on”: about the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Russia and Iran in Moscow