Iran’s First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber on Thursday called for the Caspian littoral states to create an oil and gas cooperation committee.
Mokhber broached the idea during the second meeting of the Caspian economic forum in Moscow.
He said the Caspian Sea is a mutual heritage and a connection hub among its littoral states and that countries bordering the sea need to expand cooperation in various fields, Press TV reported.
The forum initiated in 2018 is meant to act as a platform to discuss economic cooperation, transport and security in the region. Representatives from Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Iran are attending the event.
Speaking to reporters before leaving Tehran for Moscow, Mokhber said the Caspian Sea littoral states are determined to develop their relations. He said developing relations with neighboring states is one of the Iranian government’s strategies.
Mokhber was in Moscow on the official invitation of Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. In their meeting on Thursday, Mishustin said creating comfortable bilateral business conditions between Russia and Iran amid sanctions is a “two-way street”.
“We welcome the Iranian side’s decision to provide comfortable conditions for Russian business. Due to the withdrawal of companies of unfriendly states from Russia, a large number of areas have been freed up in our market that our Iranian partners will be able to occupy. So it is a two-way street and they are welcome in Russia,” Mishustin said.
Mokhber said Iran and Russia have good and growing relations, and the will of the two countries to comprehensively strengthen relations is serious.
He touched on the meeting of the managers of major Russian companies with the Iranian delegation Wednesday, saying they had discussed investment in oil fields, as well as in the agricultural, financial, banking and transit and transportation sectors and decided to work out a timetable for their implementation.
The first vice president listed transportation, transit, energy and activating the North-South corridor as the most important axes of cooperation between Iran and Russia.
He said establishing a joint bank, electrifying the Garmsar-Inchebrun railway and speeding up oil and gas contracts and creating a free trade zone is among other areas of cooperation that the sides must pursue seriously.
Mokhber also touched on Iranian President Ebrahim Raeisi’s order to expedite development of relations with Russia, saying the message for the enemies is that “sanctions cannot prevent the implementation of our plans”.
Implementation of agreements
In a meeting with the Russian presidential aide, Igor Levitin, in Moscow, Mokhber said cooperation agreements between Iran and Russia have to be seriously implemented based on a detailed and scheduled plan.
He stated that implementing bilateral agreements will serve the interests of the Iranian and Russian governments and nations.
He pointed out that Iran and Russia have reached good agreements to step up their cooperation in the energy sector and can work on plans to bolster relations in banking as well.
“The Rasht-Astara (railroad) route and the expanding banking cooperation to facilitate the activities of businessmen and the private sector will have an effective role in improving the level of cooperation between Tehran and Moscow,” Mokhber said.
Levitin said managers of the largest Russian commercial companies have gathered to negotiate with the high-ranking Iranian delegation for the development of commercial and economic cooperation.
He noted that Moscow is seriously pursuing efforts to implement the agreements with Tehran.
Free trade zones
Addressing a group of Russian businesspeople, Mokhber said free trade zones can help render sanctions imposed by the West on the two nations ineffective.
“Creating free zones is one of the ways to offset sanctions so that we can remove obstacles to bolster trade,” he said.
He urged Iranian and Russian businesspeople to look for new opportunities to increase bilateral trade.
Oil, gas swap
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said his country and Iran are working on swapping oil and gas supplies, and are already working on routes and implementation mechanisms for the arrangement.
“We are already working with them (the Iranian side) in this direction; we are working on separate routes and mechanisms. This concerns oil and gas swaps,” Novak told a briefing, commenting on the prospects of working with Iran on swapping oil supplies.
Iranian Oil Minister Javad Owji, who was accompanying the Iranian delegation in the visit, noted that Iran and Russia, as gas exporting countries, have already been cooperating on energy swaps, saying new MoUs will be signed for exploitation of Iranian gas fields.
The minister announced plans for a joint investment for production of LNG and technologies related to gas facilities with Russia’s Gazprom.
“Fortunately, good negotiations have been held with this company and other companies, with memorandums reaching $40 billion, under which they will invest in our oil and gas fields and recoup the costs from production.”
Owji described cooperation between Iran and Russia on developing Iran’s North Pars and Kish gas fields and increasing gas pressure in the South Pars field as “important”.
The two sides have also signed memorandums of understanding on the export of gas to Pakistan and Oman and construction of export pipelines to those countries, he said.
The minister further touched on swap of oil products such as gasoline in the Caspian Sea and bartering non-oil items with oil, saying the two countries are capable of swapping 10 million tons of oil and non-oil products, the infrastructure for which is already in place.
He said Iran’s cooperation with the Caspian states on oil, gas and energy is strategic.
“The cutoff of Russian gas exports to Europe and the change in international conditions have allowed Iran to become a bridge for the transfer of Russian oil and gas products to other countries and turn into a gas hub in the region,” Owji said.