Iran has secured a deal with Russia to allow it to sidestep US sanctions aimed at restricting its ability to import foreign goods, the country's foreign minister has revealed.
Mohammad Javad Zarif gave details of a deal with Moscow in an interview with Euronews, explaining that it would allow Tehran to use Russia as a transit country for international products. However, he insisted that the agreement couldn't be described as an oil-for-goods deal
Following high-level meetings between Iranian officials and the Kremlin, both sides talked of taking measures to counter the threat of sanctions after President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 international deal over Tehran’s nuclear programme.
Zarif said he had read transcripts of a meeting which was conducted between Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior advisor to Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Vladimir Putin. The deal was focused on economic cooperation, covering infrastructure, energy and trade, he said.
“I do not believe that a part of that package is that we sell, we give oil to Russia and we receive goods and commodities,” Zarif said. “It’s a much bigger package and it includes a lot of other variables including possibilities for energy cooperation between Iran and Russia, possibilities for Iran to purchase products from Russia – not necessarily Russian – but also possibilities for Iran to receive cash in terms of its energy relations.”
In May, Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the international nuclear deal and promised to reimpose US economic sanctions on Tehran to undermine “a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made”.
A number of international firms have been forced to reconsider their ties with the Islamic republic, jeopardising its giant oil and natural gas projects. Steelmakers have said they are suspending supplies to Iran, in spite of protests from the Kremlin that unilateral US sanctions should not affect Russian companies.
Russia is reportedly ready to invest $50 billion in Iran’s oil industry. Russia’s energy minister has been quoted as saying that a deal under which Russia would provide goods to Iran in exchange for oil was “possible”.
European Union (EU) countries have refused to follow the American move, saying they remain committed to the agreement. Mohammad Javad Zarif told Euronews that the Europe – given its view that the deal’s collapse would heighten tension in the Middle East – should do more.
“Those who believe that this diplomatic achievement was a very important security achievement, they should invest in it. They should not simply make political statements, but they should invest in it practically,” he said.
Earlier this week, the US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Washington would consider waivers for countries which needed more time to wind down their oil imports from Iran, in response to the reimposed sanctions.