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The Kommersant daily learnt that Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to visit Iran soon. According to the sources of the daily acquainted with the preparations to a visit, the Kremlin hopes to take advantage of the coming to power of Iranian President-elect Hassan Rouhani to break the deadlock in the negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program. Vladimir Putin is also expected to discuss in Iran bilateral issues, including Russia’s construction of new power units at the Bushehr nuclear power plant and Russia’s delivery of the air defence missile systems Antey-2500 to Iran instead of the air defence missile system S-300. The experts consider an upcoming visit “promising, but risky.”
The newspaper recalled that President Putin visited Tehran last time in October 2007 to participate in the Caspian Summit, on the sidelines of which he met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iranian Spiritual Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Before this neither Soviet nor Russian leaders visited Iran since the Tehran Peace Conference in 1943. The visit in 2007 intensified Russian-Iranian relations, which by the way have deteriorated sharply during Dmitry Medvedev’s presidency, as the latter cancelled the contract for the delivery of the air defence missile systems S-300 to Iran. Now Vladimir Putin will become, by all appearances, the first foreign leader, who will visit Iran after an inauguration of President-elect Hassan Rouhani slated on August 3.
The sources of the daily acquainted with the preparations to the visit said that the visit will focus on the conflict over the Iranian nuclear program. “Iran observes the rules in the nuclear sphere. There is no evidence that would have pointed to the contrary,” Putin said in June. Meanwhile, the Russian president has made a remark that “there are some unsettled issues,” but “if to take patience and work benevolently with each other, it is possible to find the answers to them.”
Russia probably hopes that “a reformist Rouhani” will show a larger flexibility than his predecessor in the debates over the Iranian nuclear program. “It is needed to take advantage of the current moment of time that is the coming to power of a new president to push forward the negotiations,” a source in the Russian diplomatic circles said. “The visit will give an opportunity to feel the pulse of the Iranian leadership and find out whether they are ready to move towards the taking into account of the demands of the world community to a larger extent,” the source explained.
Meanwhile, the Kommersant source noted that the situation is complicated by the fact that the Iranian president has limited powers, as Ayatollah Khamenei has the final say. To talk him into a compromise the Western guarantees are needed to lift the sanctions. Moscow has put forward an initiative to settle the Iranian nuclear problem through step-by-step mutual concessions (Lavrov’s plan) two years ago. The initiative has not been put into practice. The visit of the Russian president may reanimate it.
Vladimir Putin is expected to discuss in Tehran bilateral issues, primarily nuclear and military-technical cooperation. During a visit to Moscow in early July, outgoing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated about Russia’s construction of new power units at the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran actually as the settled issue. Meanwhile, the Kommersant sources insist that Russia had not taked a political decision to this effect.
In military-technical cooperation Moscow has already met Tehran halfway, proposing to deliver in the country the air defence missile systems Antey-2500 instead of the air defence missile systems S-300 that are inferior to Antey-2500 in their parameters. The daily reported that the Russian authorities hope to talk Iran into revoking a lawsuit against Rosoboronexport to the tune of four billion dollars for the disruption of the contract over the air defence missile systems S-300 through this compromise out of court. A source close to the Russian system of military-technical cooperation pledged that Vladimir Putin will ‘compulsorily’ raise this issue at a visit in Iran.