Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iran Talks Arms With the Kremlin

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami opened talks on trade and technical cooperation on Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the start of a visit also expected to extend to lucrative military deals.

Khatami, the first Iranian leader to visit Moscow in decades, was met on arrival by Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, who is responsible for Russia's military-industrial complex and overseas arms contracts.

In the Kremlin, his first stop, he told Putin Iran wanted to "begin a new spring in our relations". Putin said ties were undergoing "a new impetus" after the two leaders met at the United Nations millennium summit in New York last September.

The visit was also due to focus on Central Asian oil, nuclear power and post-communist political issues. Both sides hope to reap financial gains and strategic advantages against the West, observers said.

The two countries have made clear they intend to pursue military cooperation -- three months after Russia effectively pronounced dead a 1995 deal with the United States preventing it from selling conventional arms to Tehran.

Both countries have in the past year used the notion of forging new ties as an element of diversifying alliances to offset Western, primarily U.S. influence, in the region.



COMMON INTERESTS

General Leonid Ivashov, who looks after foreign ties at the Defence Ministry, said cooperation reflected common interests in fighting terrorism, dealing with Afghanistan's hardline Taliban rulers and ensuring stability in ex-Soviet Central Asia.

"We have a mutual interest in training specialists and restoring Russian equipment in Iran...," Ivashov told RTR state television late on Sunday.

"The Americans are present in the (Iranian) market. U.S.-made aircraft are in the air, supplies are available through third parties and third countries while Russian planes stand idle because we impeccably observed the accords."

The daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta quoted defence ministry and arms export sources as saying that new contracts would be clinched this year to supply arms and spare parts despite U.S. concerns. Russian defence industry officials have talked of new weapons contracts with Iran worth a possible $7 billion.

Putin has tried to diversify foreign policy and restore Soviet-era friendships in his past year in office. That has meant cultivating Iran and Iraq, where Moscow is seeking lucrative oil contracts, and visiting North Korea and Cuba -- moves that have generated U.S. unease.

On the eve of the visit, both Moscow and Tehran ruled out any new military deals during the four days of talks.

ACCORD ON FUTURE RELATIONS

The Kremlin talks were expected to culminate in signature of an accord setting the basis for relations and the issuing of a statement on the future of the energy-rich Caspian Sea.

Khatami was also to meet Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. He will also visit St Petersburg, and Tatarstan in central Russia, home to many Muslims.

Iran hopes to get Russian backing for a plan to give an equal share of the Caspian's wealth to all states around it -- Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

Russia's special presidential representative on the Caspian Sea, Viktor Kalyuzhny, was to arrive in the Kazakh capital, Astana for two days of talks on the status of the Caspian. No details were available on the nature of his meetings.

Russia and Iran are united in wanting to block Western-backed plans to transport Caspian oil to world markets through a pipeline to Turkey, bypassing their proposed routes.

Both are pressing ahead with construction of a nuclear power plant near Bushehr in southern Iran. Washington denounces the project on grounds that Iran may try to build nuclear weapons.