Away from the sabre rattling between Iran and the U.S. surrounding oil exports from the Persian Gulf, a senior official engaged in Iran's nuclear diplomacy has quietly arrived in Moscow ahead of an expected revival of talks between Tehran and the six global powers.
Undersecretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Baqeri on Wednesday arrived in Moscow for two days of negotiations on the coming talks with the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany (P5+1), Iran's state-run Fars News Agency (FNA) reported.
Even before Mr. Baqeri touched down on Russian soil, Moscow made it plain that it would obstruct Western plans to throttle Iran's oil exports — a move that acquired traction after the U.S. passed a law meant to discourage buyers from importing Iranian oil. The Russians were also categorical in saying a war against Iran — the prospects for which grew after Iran threatened to close the oil transit channel of the Strait of Hormuz — was “unacceptable”.
“We believe that sanctions [against] Iran have lost their usefulness,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told a press conference in Moscow on Tuesday. “We will oppose any new [U.N.] resolution.”
Analysts point out that countries such as China, India and Russia have generally abided by the U.N. sanctions against Iran, but have firmly opposed imposition of unilateral sanctions — outside the U.N. framework — that have been enforced by the U.S. and its core western allies.
The Russian official stressed that resumption of negotiations with Iran was the only way forward.
“It was our initiative [talks], and we've always called for it,” Mr. Gatilov said. In yet another indication that nuclear diplomacy was getting into top gear, a team of IAEA inspectors was heading to Iran on January 29, said Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's permanent representative to the IAEA.
As Moscow signalled that it was gearing up to back Tehran to the hilt, Turkey said it was likely to host talks between Iran and the global powers. Iran's FNA quoted remarks made by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to a Japanese newspaper where he said: “Both parties agreed in principle to hold talks in Turkey, and I hope negotiations will begin as soon as possible.”
Despite the optimism about the revival of a dialogue, tensions between Iran and the West could spike again in case the European Union, in the meeting of its Foreign Ministers on January 23, decided to restrict Iranian oil imports, in the hope of compensating the shortfall with larger energy purchases from the Arab Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia.
Fully aware of the perception that the Saudi Arabia was the “swing player” in the global energy market, Tehran on Tuesday urged Riyadh not to exaggerate their capabilities. “We expect the countries in the Persian Gulf region, particularly Saudi Arabia, with which we have always called for the best relations, to avoid injudicious discourses,” said Ali Akbar Salehi, Foreign Minister. Saudi Arabia's Oil Minister Ali-al-Naimi told CNN on Monday that his country could immediately raise daily production by two million barrels in case sanctions were imposed against Iran. Iranian representative to OPEC Mohammad-Ali Khatibi also warned Europe not to commit economic “suicide” by blocking energy purchases from Iran, Iran's Mehr News Agency said.