Russian ambassador says Iran will not replace Russia as gas supplier

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The Russian ambassador to Iran dismissed analysis that Iran would replace Russia as a gas supplier to Europe, as a result of the crisis between Russia and the West over Crimea.

In an interview with the Iranian Students’ News Agency, Levan Jagarian, who is fluent in Persian, said, “Some Iranian analysts are happy about the existence of challenge between Russia and the West.” But he stressed that  the idea Iran would be able to exploit the current conflict between Russia and the West or that Russia would reduce its export to Europe leaving room open for Iran to replace Russia “was not serious.”

He then added that he hoped the current conflict with the West over Ukraine will not impact the nuclear talks.

Jagarian said that in the two years he has served as ambassador he is currently the most optimistic he has ever been about reaching a final deal between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1). He added that since President Hassan Rouhani took office in August 2013, Iran has shown “more flexibility” on the nuclear issue.

Jagarian stressed, “Russia, just like before, will play an active and constructive role in the talks.” He also stated that “the West is inclined to reaching a positive conclusion” but that these negotiations are more difficult than previous negotiations, and therefore “the talks will be more complex.”

He condemned the unilateral sanctions against Iran by the United States, adding that the difficulty in transferring money has decreased trade between the two countries from $4 billion in recent years to $1.5 billion.

On the proposed oil-for-goods deal between Iran and Russia that was reported to be worth $1.5 billion and would help Iran increase its oil exports, Jagarian said Rouhani and Russian President Vladimir Putin “have reached an agreement for the signing of this deal” but that “negotiations over this agreement are continuing because the contents of the deal are complex.”

While Jagarian rejects the idea that the United States and Russia are entering another Cold War, he said that Russia will give “a firm response to US threats” and that Russia “has gotten used to US threats.” On the sanctions by the United States against Russian officials, Jagarian said, “Both of us will see damages from the implementation of these threats and sanctions.”

Over the disagreements between the sharing of the access to the Caspian Sea in northern Iran, Jagarian said that the situation is complicated by the fact that after 1990, instead of reaching an agreement between two countries, meaning the Soviet Union and Iran, today five countries must come to an agreement. Iran, Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan are currently disputing how access and the resources of the Caspian Sea should be distributed.

Jagarian denied statements by Ukraine’s ambassador to Iran that Russia could be preventing better relations between Ukraine and Iran.