Tehran, Moscow Review Ties, Regional Issues

April 6, 2002 - 0:0
TEHRAN Ties between Tehran and Moscow were further promoted during the visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi to Russia and his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who hailed Iran's role in the region.

Putin on Friday underlined Iran's key role in Central Asia and the Middle East as he hosted Kharrazi at the Kremlin in Moscow.

The Russian president praised the "historical and friendly ties" between Tehran and Moscow, saying the two countries, besides holding talks on bilateral relations, will discuss regional and international issues, including Afghanistan.

According to previous reports, the delayed visit of the Iranian foreign minister aimed to further develop ties between Tehran and Moscow.

Despite U.S. dissatisfaction, Russia announced last week that it would continue its cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran in the construction of a nuclear power plant in the southern Iranian province of Bushehr.

Speaking at the meeting, Kharrazi said Tehran attached great importance to ties with Moscow on the basis of mutual interests and promoting peace and security in the region.

"Joint cooperation between Iran and Russia, having proved effective on Tajikistan and Afghanistan, could guarantee peace and security in the entire region," Kharrazi said.

Iran and Russia are among the five Caspian littoral states which will meet in a late April summit in the Turkmen capital Ashkhabad to determine the sea's legal regime.

Experts believe that during Kharrazi's stay in Russia, Tehran and Moscow exchanged views on reaching an agreement on the legal regime of the oil-rich sea, which has been delayed for 10 years.

The Iranian foreign minister arrived in Moscow on Thursday for a two-day official visit. Kharrazi had been scheduled to travel to Russia in February, but the trip was postponed "due to coordination problems in his visit's agenda."

Earlier on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov held a meeting with Kharrazi during which he described relations between Tehran and Moscow as "excellent."

There is currently a very strong basis for further strengthening ties between the two countries, the Russian minister said.

Ivanov expressed hope that issues relating to bilateral ties and cooperation on regional and international matters would be discussed by the two sides.

Iran and Russia were also scheduled to examine progress on the implementation of accords signed during President Mohammad Khatami's visit to Moscow last March, Ivanov added.

These accords could play an important role in promoting and accelerating trade and economic cooperation between Tehran and Moscow, the Russian foreign minister said.

Also, in his meeting with Ivanov, the Iranian minister signed memorandums of understanding (MOUs) on Tehran-Moscow bilateral relations.

Asked in a joint press conference, Kharrazi said that the two countries intended to cooperate in the fields of nuclear energy and arms in accordance with international regulations and laws.

Kharrazi also called his trip to Moscow very fruitful and said Tehran and Moscow would take greater steps in boosting their economic and trade ties.

Elsewhere, Kharrazi criticized U.S. unilateralism and called on world leaders to take a stand against this attitude of Washington. He also called for Russia, the European Union and the United Nations to play a bigger role in solving the Middle East crisis.

On the Caspian issue, Kharrazi said that Iran and Russia think of the Caspian as a sea of peace and believe all the littoral states had to have a share in its resources.

During their meeting, Ivanov said his country did not believe that Iran was seeking to develop nuclear weapons and said he disagreed with the U.S. position on Iran.

He also rejected U.S. President Bush's labeling Iran part of an axis of evil along with North Korea and Iraq.

On terrorism, Ivanov said that the United Nations had yet to define the term terrorism, saying that an American or a Russian or an Iranian definition of the term was not the correct criterion.