Russia: Energy talks with Iran could undermine nuclear deal

Russia is currently engaged in negotiations with Iran on “energy development.” Encapsulated in a recently announced agreement to build two nuclear power plants in Iranian territory last week after Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif visited Moscow. This past Monday, Iran’s negotiator for nuclear talks, Abbas Aragchi, expressed his extreme disappointment with the Obama administration adding more than 25 Iranian citizens and companies to a sanctions blacklist, completely contradicting the charm offensive of President Hassan Rouhani.

Analysts following the deal believe that a recently economically and diplomatically isolated Russia gives Iran the necessary leverage to abrogate some of its responsibilities under the agreement. On Tuesday, Iran’s deputy oil minister reiterated that Iran and Russia would develop projects in energy and petrochemicals. Last month, Russia and Iran agreed to exchange Iranian crude oil for energy equipment, machinery, and food – a deal that American nuclear negotiator Wendy Schiller said would constitute a violation of sanctions.

Meanwhile, Russia has also been active mediating disputes between Azerbaijan and Armenia after as many as 40 soldiers died in heavy fighting during the first week of August. This region would be vital for securing a pipeline corridor between Iran and Russia, and with Russia’s recent gain in territory with Crimea earlier this year and South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia in 2008. The main obstacle is Western interference in the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

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News Briefs:

  • Negotiations in Afghanistan have ground to a halt, with both candidates still seemingly at odds over the creation of a unity government. The United Nations has intervened to urge both candidates to quickly form a government to succeed Hamid Karzai’s administration, and the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of Afghanistan’s parliament, has similarly offered to mediate efforts to forge an agreement.
  • Vladimir Putin will hold talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Dushanbe, Tajikistan prior to  a meeting of the Heads of State Council, which will take place as part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s annual summit. The meeting is likely to revolve around issues in which both China and Russia have interests at stake. The question of the Iranian nuclear program, the Korean peninsula, as well as BRICS-related cooperation will likely be discussed.
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