Iran and Russia refine nuclear program details
The foreign ministers of Russia, Sergey Lavrov, and Iran, Mohammad Javad Zarif, met today in Moscow to discuss Tehran ‘s nuclear program as well as the conflict in Syria.
Zarif stated that parties must respect the agreements reached in Geneva and will not try to interpret them in their own way. “We have to move forward in resolving the situation based on these agreements,” said the Iranian minister, who acknowledged that there is “low confidence”.
“There are possibilities for a final agreement, although the level of trust between the parties remains low. Nevertheless, given the exclusively peaceful nature of our nuclear program, we believe the problems are perfectly solvable,” he told a press conference at the end of his meeting with Lavrov. Iran “is prepared to take practical steps in line with the agreement,” said Zarif .
The temporary agreement will take effect next Monday and will last for six months. It will provide the partial freezing of Iranian nuclear activities in exchange for lifting some sanctions against Tehran.
Another important topic of talks between the two ministers was Syria, which Zarif just visited and where he met with President Bashar al-Assad. Iran wishes to participate in the negotiations on the Syrian issue in the Geneva peace conference, which Moscow supports.
Tehran will be part, “no doubt”, of the “joint efforts” to find a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict, Lavrov said. At the same time, the head of Russian diplomacy said that the fact that he raised this issue with Zarif and the fact he will meet with Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid al- Mualem, “does not mean that there is a tripartite project”. We have nothing to hide. There is no hidden agenda,” he said .
In addition to discussing the nuclear and Syrian problems, Zarif, according to experts, will surely seek progress in negotiations for an agreement allowing Iranian oil exchange for Russian goods. During the meeting they had last September in Bishkek, President Vladimir Putin and his colleague Hassan Rouhani agreed to strengthen economic relations and in December Lavrov had the opportunity to discuss some concrete proposals during his visit to Tehran. One of them is precisely the import of Iranian oil (500 barrels per day ) in exchange for Russian goods and machinery.
A government source confirmed to the Russian newspaper Kommersant that the two parts are negotiating on the matter and noted that it is not a simple barter contract – ie exchange of goods – but there will be money to be made. Moscow, said the source, is determined to continue these negotiations despite opposition from Washington, who fears that a possible Russian-Iranian trade agreement adversely influences the talks on Tehran’s nuclear program.
The plan for a truce in Aleppo
On the Syrian front, the Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid al- Mualem, delivered on Friday to the Russian government a plan to implement a ceasefire in Aleppo that could be extended to other areas of the country, ahead of the Geneva Peace Conference in February to be held starting next Wednesday in the Swiss city of Montreux, southwest of the country. “Today I have given the Minister – Sergey Lavrov – a plan with security measures for the region of Aleppo,” Mualem told a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart in Moscow.
The foreign minister has also assured that the regime presided by Bashar al Assad is willing to develop a list of prisoners who can be exchanged with the rebels. He stated that his government is “favorable to the exchange of prisoners held in Syrian prisons for prisoners captured by the other party.”The Syrian Minister Lavrov asked to establish” the necessary contacts to ensure compliance with the plan and establish the exact date of cessation of all military action” in the region of Aleppo.
Al Mualem has confirmed that the Syrian authorities will attend the Conference “despite attempts by some States to boycott Geneva 2 and the situation surrounding the participation therein or the National Coalition”, the main Syrian opposition group, which meets this Friday and Saturday in Istanbul to decide whether or not to finally send a delegation to the peace talks next Wednesday .
Russia is one of the main supporters of the Assad regime abroad, especially from the beginning of the conflict between the regime in Damascus in mid- March 2011.