Russia and Iran: Cooperation for Stability

10 June 2020

On June 9, the Alexander Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund in collaboration with the Institute for Iran-Eurasian Studies (IRAS) held online conference “Russia and Iran: Prospects of Cooperation in the Post-Coronavirus World”. Participants of the discussion – scientists specializing in international relations and journalists from Russia and Iran – were welcomed by Executive Director of the Gorchakov Fund, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Leonid Drachevsky and Director of IRAS, Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran Mehdi Sanaei, who in 2013-2019 was heading the Embassy of Iran in Moscow.

Problems of bilateral relations, prospects and new cooperation frameworks based on the experience of fighting the pandemic were discussed. The conversation focused on prospects of handling the Syrian crisis and the role of the Astana Process, consequences of expansion the U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Oriental Studies RAS Dr. Yelena Dunayeva reminded the audience about an important date in the Russian-Iranian relations. On May 20, exactly 100 years ago, the government of RSFSR and Persia exchanged Letters of Mutual Acknowledgement. “In this regard, a discussion about the prospects of the bilateral relations between our countries is especially important”, emphasized the expert.

The pandemic and its consequences will affect the whole system of international relations and question the globalization phenomenon. On one hand, instability of connections among supranational institutions and uncoordinated actions in face of such a threat have been revealed; on the other hand, a cross-border character of the problem has become obvious when actions of one government do not provide complete safety. Even international organizations of the UN were not able to develop an efficient mechanism of cooperation and assistance under conditions of the pandemic. The scale of economic consequences has not been completely assessed yet; however, it is evident that the decrease of the economic growth and the damage to the international trade are tremendous due to the closing of the air space and borders of many countries, mentioned Yelena Dunayeva.

According to her, Russia and Iran found themselves under pressure of the sanctions and encountered a problem of the spread of the coronavirus. Under those conditions, the best solution will be to unite and strengthen cooperation in many areas. On the background of enhancement of cooperation in the humanitarian sphere, it is logical to establish cooperation in healthcare and science, to summarize experience of fighting the pandemic, development of the vaccines and their testing, and struggle for transparency of scientific research in biological and military-biological areas. Considering opinions regarding an artificial source of the COVID-19, the role of the Biological Weapons Convention and its annexes is especially important.

Another important area of cooperation, according to Yelena Dunayeva, is religion as both countries experienced a negative attitude from religious institutions towards the necessity to close them and introduce the quarantine. Also, expansion of practices of remote work increases opportunities for youth cooperation in many areas of activities.

Development of trade and economic cooperation today is the most problematic area, which is lagging behind the cooperation between the two countries in politics and security, and it does not comply with their interests. The critical restraining factor is sanctions. Russia, in its turn, has actively supported the Iran’s’ address to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urging to prevent the sanctions pressure against Iran on the background of the spread of the COVID-19.

Development of a sound foundation in the trade-economic area will become a guarantee of rapprochement between the two countries. That is why it is crucial to develop and deepen interregional ties between Russia and Iran, in particular, within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union. The expert also mentioned that the main channel for goods from Iran goes through Azerbaijan and Armenia and we should not forget about existing opportunities on the Caspian Sea involving the signing of the so-called “Caspian Constitution” by five countries in Kazakhstan in 2018.

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