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Pres. Raeisi: Iran, Russia reached ‘fundamental agreements’ on expanding ties

President Ebrahim Raeisi has said that Iran and Russia reached “fundamental agreements” on expanding all-out bilateral relations to secure mutual interests.

“Undoubtedly, the development of relations with Russia will contribute to the security and prosperity of the two nations. Certainly, such security-building cooperation will be for the sake of the region,” Raeisi said after arriving in Tehran from Moscow around midnight.

He said that during his Russia trip, which began on Wednesday, the two sides discussed steps to challenge the dominance of the US dollar and continue trade in their national currencies.

“Our oil minister had good agreements with Russian energy officials, the effects of which will emerge later,” he said, adding that good agreements were also reached on removing obstacles to boosting trade relations.

However, the level of trade relations is “not acceptable”, the president stated.

Officials have said the two sides seek to increase the current record $3 billion bilateral trade.

“We decided to increase the level of trade between the two countries to $10 billion in the first stage,” President Raeisi said. 

“In the field of agriculture, there were also good discussions that would lead to real exchanges of agricultural products,” he said.

In the field of transportation, the two sides decided to advance the North-South corridor which will facilitate transportation and greatly reduce transportation time, the president added.

In 2002, Russia, Iran, and India signed an agreement for the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), a 7,200 km multi-mode network of ship, rail, and road route for moving freight between India, Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe.

The INSTC is seen a game-changer that will shorten the distance and lower the cost of transportation from South Asia to Europe through Iran and Russia and potentially serve as an alternative to the Suez Canal for East-West trade.

Tehran and Moscow also reached agreements to expand their cooperation in the industry, defense, and aerospace sectors, President Raeisi said.

On the first day of his two-day trip, which he described as a “turning point” in Iran-Russia relations, Raeisi had a three-hour meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, during which the Iranian president said the Islamic Republic seeks to forge strategic relations with Moscow.

Later on Wednesday, he met with Iranians residing in Russia. On Thursday, Raeisi addressed the State Duma and attended the prayers at the Moscow Grand Mosque at the invitation of Rawil Gaynutdin, chairman of the Russian Mufti Council.

‘US must be held accountable for General Soleimani assassination’

Speaking with Russia’s RT television in an exclusive interview, Raeisi said the US must be held accountable for the assassination of Iran’s top anti-terror commander, Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, in Iraq two years ago.

“Qassem Soleimani belonged not only to the people of Iran, but also to the Muslim community. He came to save people’s lives. He made efforts in this direction, and all people, both Muslims and non-Muslims of course, have great respect for his work,” he said.

He said people respected Gen. Soleimani because they knew he managed to save people’s lives from Daesh and other terrorist groups.

“He was able to protect and save people’s lives. Therefore, his presence in Syria and Iraq in the region was aimed at fighting terrorism,” he said.

“Therefore, Qassem Soleimani is a hero and the Americans must give answers,” Raeisi said. “They say they are flag-bearers in the fight against terrorism, but why was the hero of the fight against terrorism killed?”

He pointed out that the Americans committed such a great crime and openly confessed to their crime.

“The one who commits such a great crime and confesses to it naturally should be punished in a qualified court,” the president asserted.

“The promise to protect the oppressed and punish the oppressors is, of course, a sincere promise and it will certainly be kept.”

US refusal to abide by JCPOA

Elsewhere in the interview, President Raeisi said Iran takes the Vienna negotiations on restoring the 2015 agreement “very seriously”. He made clear that the hurdle to restoring the pact remains Washington’s refusal to abide by its terms.

“What we have seen so far is a violation of obligations on the part of the Americans,” he said, referring to the US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018 and its subsequent sanctions on Tehran in violation of the deal.

The Iranian president noted that the European parties to the treaty – France, Germany and the UK – have “also failed to fulfill their obligations” under the JCPOA through “the lack of new appropriate measures” to deal with the US violation.  

“The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) stated 15 times that Iran had fulfilled its obligations, that Iran was committed to its obligations,” Raeisi stated. “So, we have fulfilled our obligations, but they have violated theirs. They must fulfill their obligations. We didn’t break anything.”

“If the parties are ready to remove sanctions, the ground for reaching an agreement on nuclear issues is absolutely ready,” he added.

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