Gov’t Eyes Closer Russian Engagement

US restrictions that ban international banks from clearing Iran-linked transactions using the US financial system have hindered normalization of business ties between Iran and the West, pushing the government toward deeper engagement with Russia
Mehdi SanaeiMehdi Sanaei

The government plans to significantly broaden cooperation with Russia, the ambassador to the northern neighbor said.

"President Hassan Rouhani, who was elected for a second term [in May], has vast plans to further develop relations with Russia," Mehdi Sanaei was also quoted as telling the Iran-Russia Cultural-Social Conference in Ufa, the capital of Russia's Republic of Bashkortostan, on Thursday, ISNA reported.

The Iranian delegation attending the conference was led by the special assistant to the president for ethnic and religious minorities' affairs, Ali Younesi.

Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, in a message read at the event's inauguration, praised the progress made in promoting bilateral relations over the past few years.

He said the Ufa conference could "pave the way for the development of cultural ties and closer contact between Iranians and Russians".

Rouhani championed the 2015 nuclear accord with six major powers, including Russia, partly to deliver on his 2013 electoral promise to revive the sanctions-hit economy by attracting foreign investment and technology.

The deal has been in force since January 2016 to remove sanctions in return for implementing temporary curbs on Tehran's nuclear program.

However, residual US restrictions that ban international firms and banks from clearing Iran-linked transactions using the US dollar and financial system have deterred the hoped-for overseas capital inflows.

This, coupled with growing pressure from conservative critics at home, has pushed the Iranian government toward deeper engagement with Russia.

Tehran and Moscow have forged a strong alliance in recent years in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to drive out terrorist groups from the war-torn Arab country.

On March 29, during a visit by Rouhani to the northern neighbor, the two sides signed 14 documents to promote cooperation in a wide range of fields from communications to tourism.

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