The Significance of the Iranian Foreign Minister’s Recent Visit to Moscow


 Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian recently visited Moscow and met his Russian counterpart to discuss the nuclear talks,  bilateral relations, and  domestic developments   in Syria and Afghanistan. Abdollahian was accompanied by Iran’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan Kazemi Qomi,  Director General of the Eurasia Department at the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Alireza Haghighian, Director General of the South Asia Department at the same ministry  Seyyed Rasoul Mousavi, and other Iranian officials. The recent meeting comes amid the ongoing Ukraine conflict  and reflects  the close interactions  between Moscow and Tehran on several critical economic, political, and military issues.

 Ahead of Abdollahian’s visit, Iranian officials reiterated Iran’s willingness to acts as a mediator to resolve the Ukraine conflict and some even claimed that the Iranian foreign minister  was carrying a message from a European leader for Russia.  After the meeting with  Russian officials, Abdollahian said, “Some European partners want Iran to play an active role in the resolution of the Ukraine crisis. Therefore, one of the main goals of this trip is to resolve the Ukraine crisis by bringing the parties to the negotiation table.” To the contrary, some intelligence reports have confirmed that Tehran has supplied  military drones  to Russia for deployment  in Ukraine, and during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Iran in July of this year, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei  justified  Russian aggression against Ukraine.

 Against the backdrop of sanctions, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov noted that Russia and Iran  had been successful in boosting  bilateral trade.  Recent reports indicate that bilateral trade increased by more than 40 percent in the first half of 2022 surpassing $2.7 billion.  Furthermore,  there are efforts  to facilitate  financial transactions between the people and businesses of both countries by integrating the Russian payment system Mir with Iran’s Shetab banking system. After the meeting, at a conference in Moscow, Lavrov said that Moscow and Tehran are working on an “interstate agreement” which will be of “strategic importance” and “will set out the basic guidelines for further building up the entire range of Russian-Iranian ties in the coming decades.” Lavrov also said, “Russia also supports Iran’s accession as a permanent member to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and a memorandum of Iran’s obligations to the organization will be signed at the SCO summit in September in the Uzbek city of Samarkand.” Lavrov expressed support for reviving the Iranian nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and said that Russia would align its position on this issue in accordance with Iran.

In the current context, Abdollahian’s recent visit to Moscow reflected  four crucial Iranian and Russian considerations.  Firstly, the war in Ukraine has created some immediate and long-term convergences for Russia and Iran, especially in the domain of defense and aerospace. Recent reports indicate that Iran is interested in buying Su-35 fighter jets from Russia to update the Iranian air force’s old and outdated fleet.  Secondly,  energy cooperation between Iran and Russia is a critical element in their relations.  Iran’s national oil company  and Russia’s Gazprom recently signed a $40 billion  memorandum of understanding as a part of a long-held plan to establish an OPEC-style cartel for natural gas. If such a cartel was to be formed with Qatar’s participation, Moscow and Tehran would be able to exert considerable influence over supplies and prices in the energy market. The three countries account for just under 60 percent of global gas reserves.   Thirdly, Russia is concerned about the domestic developments in Syria and  has been apprehensive about the security situation in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover.  Recently, ISIS-K  claimed  responsibility for the bomb blast near the Russian embassy in Kabul that killed at least six people including two Russian diplomats. Fourthly, Russia and Iran have accelerated  their efforts to deepen their economic engagement. Recent reports indicate that Russia’s region of Tatarstan is now looking to increase its trade with Iran via the International North-South Trade Corridor (INSTC) and  the Caspian Sea. The INSTC connects Iran’s northern and southern ports to Europe and Asia, and  will boost the transit of cargo  to the Central Asian countries and Russia. However, at the moment,  the INSTC’s rail transportation is not fully operational because of Iran’s financial constraints.

 Overall,  it is likely  that Iran and Russia will continue to deepen their cooperation in the energy sector and boost bilateral trade despite Western sanctions and pressures and also closely coordinate on regional matters such as Afghanistan and Syria  as the interests of both countries converge on several issues.

Editorial Team