MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Any military actions in Syria should be agreed with the country’s government, Iranian Ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanaei told Sputnik in an interview.
“As regards Afrin, the Islamic Republic of Iran, in accordance with the UN Charter and international law, advocates for the preservation of the territorial integrity of Syria and believes that any military action and military presence in Syria should be agreed with the government of the Syrian Arab Republic,” the ambassador said, commenting on Turkey’s operation in Syria’s Afrin.
On January 20, the Turkish Armed Forces launched Operation Olive Branch against the Kurdish forces in Afrin, an area controlled by the US-backed YPG, which are considered by Ankara to be affiliates of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), designated as a terrorist organization in Turkey and several other countries. The operation has been conducted jointly with the Free Syrian Army forces.
Sochi Congress on Syria is a ‘Worthy Event’
The Congress of the Syrian National Dialogue in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi has become a big step towards the Syrian political settlement amid the lack of progress at the UN-led Geneva talks, Mehdi Sanaei said.
“I would like to say that the Congress of the Syrian National Dialogue, which was held in Sochi, was a worthy event. It involved representatives of various parties, tribes, and religions, and in my opinion, this is a big step towards a political settlement of the Syrian crisis. Especially given that the Geneva talks lack particular progress,” the ambassador said.
Iran-Russia Energy Cooperation
Tehran hopes to sign contracts with Russian oil and gas companies in 2018, there is already noticeable progress in its cooperation, in particular, with Rosneft and Gazprom, Mehdi Sanaei stated.
Six large Russian oil and gas companies have memorandums of understanding and some of them have already submitted their materials on the projects, the ambassador noted.
“We hope that all this will lead to the signing of contracts in 2018. Companies are exploring the fields, but some companies are closer to signing contracts. For example, Rosneft is making good progress, Gazprom is in serious talks on LNG, Zarubezhneft has signed a preliminary contract,” Sanaei said, adding that among Russian companies that are also “working well” with Tehran are Gazprom Neft and LUKoil.
Tehran hopes that an agreement with Gazprom on its participation in the Iran LNG project will be concluded in the first half of 2018, the ambassador noted.
“The Iranian side very much hopes that it will be so. We want the Russian companies to hurry up and to sign the relevant contracts,” Sanaei said, answering the question whether the contract could be signed in the first half of 2018.
Iran and Russia’s Rosneft are holding talks on having the energy giant join the development of the Islamic republic’s Azar oil field, Mehdi Sanaei said.
“Yes, [the talks] are underway,” Sanaei told the Rossiya 24 TV channel, asked whether Rosneft was negotiating with Iran over Azar oil field.
Azar oil field is being developed by Iran’s Oil Industries Engineering and Construction (OIEC). In 2017, Russia’s Gazprom and OIEC signed a deal allowing the Russian company to develop the Azar and Changuleh oil fields.
New Forum to Unite Russia and the Persian Gulf States
Mehdi Sanaei proposed to hold the Southern Economic Forum, which would bring together Russia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the countries of the Persian Gulf and Turkey.
“We have an idea to launch the Southern Economic Forum with the help of Roscongress [Foundation] and the Ministry of Economic Development and hold it in one of the southern Russian cities, it may be not only an Iran-Russia economic forum. Look, there is the St. Petersburg Forum [SPIEF], there is the Eastern Economic Forum [EEF], there is a forum in Arkhangelsk, and the Southern Forum could unite Russia, Iran and the countries of the Persian Gulf, Turkey. We offered this idea to Roscongress and we are working on it,” Sanaei told Sputnik in an interview.
Roscongress Foundation is a major Russian organizer of conventions, exhibitions, and public events.
The ambassador recalled that Iran has participated in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum at a high level in the past two years.
“I think that this year Iran will also take part [in the SPIEF], we received an invitation,” Sanaei said.
Iran to Retaliate if Nuclear Deal Fropped
“Iran, of course, will try to cooperate with Russia, with China, as well as with European countries, will try to protect the JCPOA, but if it is violated, then, of course, Iran also has its own scenarios… Iran has specific retaliatory measures,” the ambassador said.
According to the diplomat, Tehran has notified Moscow of such possible scenarios.
Sanaei stressed that Iran was thankful to Russia “for a very just and rightful on the JCPOA.”
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that the United States will withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan for Iran’s nuclear program if it fails to achieve its revision. The deal was reached in 2015 by Iran and the 5+1 group that includes China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States and Germany. It stipulates that Iran will adhere to developing the peaceful nuclear program in exchange for lifting anti-Tehran sanctions.