Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, during an official visit to Moscow, will discuss with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday a number of bilateral and international issues, including the North-South transport corridor, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and the situation in Syria.
The top diplomats of Iran and Russia will discuss the resumption of the JCPOA.
“One of the issues to be raised during our tomorrow discussions with [Russian Foreign Minister Sergey] Lavrov will be the JCPOA [the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear program],” Iranian Foreign Minister said in his Telegram account, upon arriving in Moscow. “Russia played an efficient role in the new round of the 4+1 talks in Vienna, which continued for a few months. Our Russian colleagues keep fulfilling their obligations related to returning the sides [to the negotiating table].”
Talks to resume the JCPOA with Iran began in 2021. Their main goal is to restore the deal and lift the sanctions previously imposed on Tehran by the United States after Washington’s withdrawal from the JCPOA in 2018. Iran, if the agreement is signed, vows to stop the development of its nuclear program.
The sides will also touch upon the construction of the International North–South Transport Corridor (a multimodal route from St. Petersburg to the port of Mumbai, India), which has not been completed yet.
Among the other most anticipated parts of the meeting were the previously postponed talks between the deputy foreign ministers of Iran, Russia, Syria and Turkiye. During these discussions, the sides intended to discuss preparations for a ministerial meeting on the normalization of relations between Ankara and Damascus.
One should not rule out that the talks will bring some clarity to the timing of the second meeting in the “three plus three” format, which implies the participation of the three countries of the South Caucasus (Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia), as well as the three closest neighbors of this region (Russia, Iran and Turkiye). Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced earlier that his ministry has worked to organize such a meeting, and that “the door for Tbilisi remains open.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed “satisfaction with the achieved record levels of [bilateral] trade, despite the illegitimate unilateral sanctions” slapped on Moscow and Tehran. At the end of 2022, the trade turnover between Russia and Iran amounted to $4.86 billion, which is 20.2% more than the highest-ever figure recorded in 2021.
Free Trade Zone Talks
Iranian Ambassador to the Russian Federation Kazem Jalali earlier said that the current level of bilateral cooperation indicates that a comprehensive agreement on cooperation between Tehran and Moscow will be signed and an agreement on a free trade area with the Eurasian Economic Union will be ratified before the end of this year.
Given the signing of a memorandum on Iran’s obligations to obtain the status of an SCO member state during the organization’s summit in September 2022, Moscow expects Tehran’s early full-fledged participation in SCO events.
Iran-Russia Visa-Free Regime
Iran-Russia Visa-Free Regime Additionally, Tehran and Moscow will most likely touch upon the introduction of a visa-free regime between Iran and Russia. Iranian Deputy Minister of Tourism, Cultural Heritage and Crafts Ali-Asghar Shalbafian told reporters that the issue of abolishing visas for individual tourists from Russia “takes time”, but Tehran, for its part, is ready to resolve it.
The deputy minister also noted that collective visa-free trips from Russia to Iran would begin later this spring. He remained upbeat about the launch of Russia’s Mir payment system in the Islamic Republic in the near future, adding that the Central Banks of Russia and Iran are already working on the project.
Amir-Abdollahian last visited Russia in August 2022.