Yelena Dunayev: "Iran was closed, inaccessible and strange country for Russia" Political and military events
Yelena Dunayev: "Iran was closed, inaccessible and strange country for Russia"
Russia plans to complete the delivery of S-300 to Iran until the end of the year, the work under contract goes according to plan, the head of "Rostec" state corporation Sergey Chemezov informed. The contract was signed in 2007. However, its implementation was halted after the adoption of international sanctions against Iran. They included the ban on export of nuclear, missile and military products to Iran, as well as direct foreign investments into gas, oil and petrochemical industry of Iran. The removal of sanctions against Iran and subsequent return of the coutry to the world raw materials market affected decline in oil prices, which damaged Russian economy, however, it also made it possible to intensify trade and economic cooperation between Moscow and Tehran.
Senior researcher of the Institute of Oriental Studies Yelena Dunayev spoke with Vestnik Kavkaza about the directions, in which this cooperation can develop.
- In your opinion, is Iran's accession to the Eurasian Economic Union in the near future realistic? There are talks that at the first stage, it is possible to sign a temporary free trade agreement, leading to the creation of full-fledged free trade zone.
- Yes, there is already a joint commission, which brings together representatives of the Eurasian Economic Commission and Iran. Regarding customs cooperation, several agreements on the opening of "green corridor" to facilitate customs operations and reduce customs tariffs were signed. Moreover, a number of Iranian products were assigned to "zero group", in other words, they are brought into Russia without any customs duties (pistachios, in particular). The task of this commission is to find a product groups that are of both Russia's and Iran's interests. When this work will be over, it will be possible to make the first step on the creation of free trade zone with Iran.
- How can Russia benefit from this?
- First of all, in the conditions of continuing sanctions against Russia, it is interested in obtaining certain groups of products. This includes greens, fruits, chicken meat and seafood, which are already supplied to Russia from Iran. Secondly, Russia can expand transit ties with Iran. Iranian products can be delivered to other countries through the territory of Russia. Southern regions of Russia - Astrakhan, Saratov, Volgograd - can implement joint projects in the agricultural sector. It is possible to establish joint transit and logistics companies.
- In early August, presidents of Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia will meet in Baku. How would you assess Azerbaijani-Iranian relations?
- I think that reasonable and pragmatic relations that Iran maintains with both Azerbaijan and Armenia can become the key to form a climate of good neighborliness and stability in the region. But of course, huge amount of work must be done. Iran doesn't have any specific plan, except from limiting the influence of extra-regional powers on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. But the involvment of Turkey, Georgia and Russia as neighboring regional powers to resolve this conflict is possible. I think that relations started to improve after the government of Hassan Rouhani came to power. Visit of President Ilham Aliyev to Iran in May is one of the examples of this Tehran has never supported any radical Islamic movements and trends. It is interested in political stability of Azerbaijan, since Iran has a huge Azerbaijani community. Tehran has no interest in provoking nationalist sentiments there. Over the past few years, both countries are expanding cooperation in this area, since further deepening of political and economic ties is impossible without the formation of a positive image of the country abroad.
The same goes for Russia and Iran - if it is the fight against Islamophobia for Iran, it is a return of trust for Russia.
- Particularly through the cultural exchange?
- Yes. Many steps were taken over the past decades, they caused a certain lack of trust to Russia among Iranians. But Russian Culture Weeks in Iran and Iranian Culture Weeks in Russia are held for the third year in a row. There is an active exchange of cinematic production. Iranian films won some awards at the last festival in Moscow. Russian films participate in the Iranian international film festival "Fajr".
There is an exchange of theater collectives. We hold photo and art exhibitions in Iran and Russia. The issue of learning Russian language in Iran is raised much more often that in previous years. Russian language is studied in more than 18 Iranian universities, there are departments of Russian language and literature. At the same time, Farsi, literature, history and culture of Iran are studied in 13 universities of Russia, not only in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but also in Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk. Exhibitions are held in museums, such as the Museum of Oriental Art. There is an exhibition of Iranian art in the Hermitage.
We also expand tourist contacts. But so far, tourism is a one-way area. A huge number of Iranians (according to preliminary calculations, about 10 million this year, and around thousand people in previous years) visited Russia. Air traffic was established, and not only with Moscow - there are flights to St. Petersburg and Sochi. It gives us hope and opens prospects. Our travel companies signed contracts, developed routes. Trips to Iran happen more often. But I think this is a things of the future, because Iran was closed, inaccessible and strange country for Russia. It's not Turkey or Egypt, which are flooded by Russian tourists.