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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Russia and Iran ‘building momentum’ – Putin

The two nations are cooperating in fields ranging from infrastructure projects to education, the president has said

Moscow and Tehran have developed strong ties over the past years and as a result have boosted their respective economies, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi. The Iranian president arrived in Moscow on a state visit on Thursday.

The two leaders discussed both bilateral ties and wider global challenges, including the Israel-Hamas conflict.

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Russia and Iran had built “good momentum” over the past year, Putin told Raisi, pointing to cooperation in energy and education. The states are also investing in Iranian railroads, which are destined to become a part of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC).

A network of sea, rail, and highway routes spanning over 7,200km, the INSTC is designed to link Russia’s city of St. Petersburg, on the Baltic Sea, to Mumbai in India through the Caspian Sea and Iran. The project, the genesis of which dates back to 2002, involves a total of 11 nations.

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The INSTC is intended to halve the time needed to ship goods from the Baltic to India and double cargo turnover on the route. It is expected to be twice as efficient as moving the goods through the Suez Canal, according to some media reports.

In May 2023, Moscow and Tehran signed an agreement on the joint construction of a railroad linking the Iranian cities of Astara, which has a port on the Caspian Sea, and Rasht. It is the last remaining part of the railroad network of the corridor that still needs to be built, according to Russian media reports.

According to Putin, bilateral trade between the two nations has already grown by 20% over the past year and reached some $5 billion. “We are engaging in active cooperation across the entire spectrum of our bilateral relations,” the president said.

Raisi also hailed the two nations’ progress in the fields of energy, agriculture, and education but said that further steps could be made to deepen cooperation in these areas, which would be “in the interests of our states and our peoples.” The talks on Thursday will also greatly contribute to this process, he added.

The Russian president expressed his hope that the Eurasian Economic Union, which includes Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, would be able to sign a free-trade agreement with Iran by the end of the year.

During the talks, Putin joked that he had considered landing in Tehran yesterday while visiting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The president said that he was flying over Iran on his way back to Russia and thought that he could just land in Tehran and meet Raisi right away. However, according to Putin, he did not do that as he was informed that the Iranian president was already about to leave for Moscow.

Raisi responded by saying that Iran was ready to receive Putin’s plane at any time and invited the Russian president to visit Iran. Putin said he accepted the invitation and would avail himself of the opportunity when the time comes.